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U.S.

-Mexican Security Cooperation:


The Mrida Initiative and Beyond
Clare Ribando Seelke
Specialist in Latin American Affairs
Kristin Finklea
Specialist in Domestic Security
April 8, 2014

Congressional Research Service


7-5700
www.crs.gov
R41349

CRS Report for Congress


Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress

U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Mrida Initiative and Beyond

Summary
Violence perpetrated by drug trafficking organizations and other criminal groups continues to
threaten citizen security and governance in some parts of Mexico, a country with which the
United States shares a nearly 2,000 mile border and $500 billion in annual trade. Although the
violence in Mexico has generally declined since late 2011, analysts estimate that it may have
claimed more than 70,000 lives between December 2006 and December 2013. Supporting
Mexicos efforts to reform its criminal justice system is widely regarded as crucial for combating
criminality, strengthening the rule of law, and better protecting citizen security in the country.
U.S.-Mexican security cooperation increased significantly as a result of the development and
implementation of the Mrida Initiative, a counterdrug and anticrime assistance package for
Mexico and Central America first funded in FY2008. Whereas U.S. assistance initially focused on
training and equipping Mexican counterdrug forces, it now places more emphasis on addressing
the weak institutions and underlying societal problems that have allowed the drug trade to
flourish in Mexico. The Mrida strategy now focuses on (1) disrupting organized criminal groups,
(2) institutionalizing the rule of law, (3) creating a 21st century border, and (4) building strong and
resilient communities. As part of the Mrida Initiative, the Mexican government pledged to
intensify its anticrime efforts and the U.S. government pledged to address drug demand and the
illicit trafficking of firearms and bulk currency to Mexico.
Inaugurated in December 2012, Mexican President Enrique Pea Nieto has continued U.S.Mexican security cooperation, albeit with a shift in focus toward reducing violent crime in
Mexico. The Interior Ministry is now a primary entity through which Mrida training and
equipment requests are coordinated and intelligence is channeled. The Mexican government has
requested increased assistance for judicial reform and prevention efforts, but limited U.S.
involvement in some law enforcement and intelligence operations. Despite those restrictions, U.S.
intelligence helped Mexican marines arrest the leader of the Los Zetas criminal organization,
Miguel Angel Trevio Morales in July 2013. U.S. surveillance equipment, intelligence, and law
enforcement agents also helped the Mexican marines find and arrest Joaqun El Chapo
Guzmnthe worlds most wanted drug traffickerin February 2014.
The 113th Congress is likely to continue funding and overseeing the Mrida Initiative and related
domestic initiatives. From FY2008 to FY2014, Congress appropriated about $2.4 billion in
Mrida Initiative assistance for Mexico, including some $194.2 million provided in the FY2014
Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 113-76). As of March 2014, more than $1.2 billion of
Mrida Initiative assistance had been delivered. The Obama Administration asked for $115
million for Mrida in its FY2015 budget request.
Possible questions for oversight may include the following. 1) What have been the results of the
Mrida Initiative thus far? 2) How is the State Department measuring the efficacy of Mrida
programs? 3) How have Mrida programs been affected by the Pea Nieto governments new
security strategy and how is coordination advancing? 4) To what extent is the Mexican
government moving judicial and police reform efforts forward, and how is U.S. assistance
supporting those reforms? 5) Are Mrida funded programs helping the Mexican government
respond to new challenges such as the rise of civilian self-defense groups? 5) Is Mexico meeting
the human rights conditions placed on Mrida Initiative funding?

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U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Mrida Initiative and Beyond

Contents
Introduction...................................................................................................................................... 1
Concerns about Violence in Mexico ................................................................................................ 2
Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime, and Violence in Mexico .................................................. 2
Drug Trafficking-Related Violence in the United States ........................................................... 4
Development and Implementation of the Mrida Initiative ............................................................. 5
Evolution of U.S.-Mexican Counterdrug Cooperation .............................................................. 5
Developing Cooperation through the Mrida Initiative............................................................. 6
Funding the Mrida Initiative .................................................................................................... 7
Implementation .......................................................................................................................... 8
U.S. Efforts to Complement the Mrida Initiative .................................................................... 9
The Pea Nieto Administrations Security Strategy and the Mrida Initiative ................................ 9
The Four Pillars of the Mrida Initiative ....................................................................................... 13
Pillar One: Disrupting the Operational Capacity of Organized Crime .................................... 13
Pillar Two: Institutionalizing Reforms to Sustain the Rule of Law and Respect for
Human Rights in Mexico ..................................................................................................... 14
Reforming the Police......................................................................................................... 15
Reforming the Judicial and Penal Systems ....................................................................... 17
Pillar Three: Creating a 21st Century Border ....................................................................... 19
Northbound and Southbound Inspections ......................................................................... 20
Preventing Border Enforcement Corruption ..................................................................... 21
Mexicos Southern Borders ............................................................................................... 22
Pillar Four: Building Strong and Resilient Communities ........................................................ 22
Issues.............................................................................................................................................. 25
Measuring the Success of the Mrida Initiative ...................................................................... 25
Extraditions.............................................................................................................................. 26
Drug Production and Interdiction in Mexico ........................................................................... 27
Human Rights Concerns and Conditions on Mrida Initiative Funding ................................. 29
Role of the U.S. Department Of Defense in Mexico ............................................................... 32
Balancing Assistance to Mexico with Support for Southwest Border Initiatives .................... 33
Integrating Counterdrug Programs in the Western Hemisphere .............................................. 34
Outlook .......................................................................................................................................... 34

Figures
Figure 1. Map of Mexico ................................................................................................................. 4
Figure 2. Individuals Extradited from Mexico to the United States .............................................. 27

Tables
Table 1. FY2008FY2015 Mrida Funding for Mexico .................................................................. 7
Table A-1. U.S. Assistance to Mexico by Account, FY2007-FY2014 ........................................... 36

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U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Mrida Initiative and Beyond

Appendixes
Appendix A. U.S. Assistance to Mexico ........................................................................................ 36
Appendix B. U.S. Domestic Efforts to Complement the Mrida Initiative ................................... 37
Appendix C. Selected U.S.Mexican Law Enforcement Partnerships ........................................ 42

Contacts
Author Contact Information........................................................................................................... 44
Acknowledgments ......................................................................................................................... 44

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U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Mrida Initiative and Beyond

Introduction
For several years, violence and crime perpetrated by warring criminal organizations has
threatened citizen security and governance in parts of Mexico and presented serious challenges to
the countrys justice sector institutions. While the illicit drug trade has been prevalent in Mexico
for decades, an increasing number of drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) are fighting for
control of smuggling routes into the United States and resisting government efforts against them.
This violence resulted in more than 60,000 deaths in Mexico between December 2006 and
November 2012.1 An additional 10,000 organized crime-related deaths likely occurred during the
first year (December 2012-December 2013) of the Enrique Pea Nieto Administration.2 In 2013,
kidnappings reportedly increased by some 25%.3
Violence in northern Mexico and the potential threat of spillover violence along the Southwest
border have focused congressional concern on the efficacy of the Mrida Initiative and related
domestic efforts in both countries. Between FY2008 and FY2014, Congress appropriated roughly
$2.4 billion for Mrida Initiative programs in Mexico (see Table 1). Of that total, more than $1.2
billion worth of training, equipment, and technical assistance has been provided to Mexico (see
Implementation). Between 2008 and 2014, Mexico has invested some $68.3 billion of its own
resources on security and public safety.4 While bilateral efforts have yielded some positive
results, the apparent weakness of Mexicos criminal justice system seems to have limited the
effectiveness of anti-crime efforts.
Mexican President Enrique Pea Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) took office
in December 2012 vowing to reduce violence in Mexico and adjust the current U.S.-Mexican
security strategy. While Mexicos public relations approach to security issues has changed, many
analysts maintain that Pea Nieto has quietly adopted an operational approach similar to that of
former President Felipe Caldern, a strategy that includes close cooperation with the United
States.5 Congress may analyze how cooperation is advancing, how Mrida and related funds have
been used, and the degree to which U.S.-funded programs in Mexico complement other U.S.
counterdrug and border security efforts. Compliance with Meridas human rights conditions is
likely to be monitored to ensure that anticrime efforts are carried out in a way that respects the
rule of law. The extent to which greater cooperation leads to an increase in extraditions,
particularly of high-level traffickers such as Joaqun El Chapo Guzmn, is also of interest.6
Oversight of U.S. domestic pledges under the Mrida Initiative may also continue, particularly
those aimed at reducing weapons trafficking. Congress could also explore how the use of newer
1

This figure is an estimate. Cory Molzahn, Octavio Rodriguez Ferreira, and David A. Shirk, Drug Violence in Mexico:
Data and Analysis Through 2012, Trans-Border Institute (TBI), February 2013. Hereinafter: TBI, February 2013
2
Calculation by Milennio, as cited by Justice in Mexico News Monitor, vol. 9, no. 1, January 2014.
3
Suben Extorsin y Secuestro en Primer Ao de EPN,Animal Poltico, December 2, 2013.
4
Mexicos security budget totaled roughly $10.2 billion in 2013 and $11.5 billion in 2014. It includes funds allotted for
the Judiciary; Interior Ministry, Ministry of Defense, Attorney Generals Office, the National Human Rights
Commission, and transfers to the states and the municipalities in each state. Government of Mexico, Mexicos Fight
for Security: Strategy and Main Achievements, June 2011. Marciel Reyes Tepach, El Presupuesto Pblico Federal
para la Funcin Seguridad Pblica, 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, Cmara de Diputados, March and December 2013.
5
Joshua Partlow and Sari Horwitz, U.S. and Mexican Authorities Detail Coordinated Effort to Capture Drug Lord,
Washington Post, February 23, 2014.
6
U.S. Congress, House Committee on Homeland Security, Taking Down the Cartels: Examining United StatesMexican Cooperation, 113th Cong., 2nd sess., April 2, 2014.

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U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Mrida Initiative and Beyond

toolssuch as aerial drones that monitor criminal activity in the border regionmight bolster
current security cooperation efforts.
This report provides a framework for examining the current status and future prospects for U.S.Mexican security cooperation. It begins with a brief discussion of the scope of the threat that drug
trafficking and related crime and violence now pose to Mexico and the United States, followed by
an analysis of the evolution of the Mrida Initiative. The report then provides an overview of the
Pea Nieto governments security strategy and how it is affecting the Mrida Initiative. The report
then delves deeper into key aspects of the current U.S.-Mexican security strategy and concludes
by raising policy issues that may affect bilateral efforts.

Concerns about Violence in Mexico


Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime, and Violence in Mexico7
Mexico is a major producer and supplier to the U.S. market of heroin, methamphetamine, and
marijuana and a major transit country for more than 95% of the cocaine sold in the United States.8
Mexico is also a consumer of illicit drugs, particularly in northern states where criminal
organizations have been paying their workers in product rather than in cash. Illicit drug use in
Mexico increased from 2002 to 2008, and then remained relatively level from 2008 to 2011.
According to the 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA), Mexican drug trafficking
organizations and their affiliates dominate [in] the supply and wholesale distribution of most
illicit drugs in the United States and are present more than 1,000 U.S. cities.9
The violence and brutality of the Mexican drug trafficking organizations escalated as they have
battled for control of trafficking routes into the United States and local drug distribution networks
in Mexico. U.S. and Mexican officials now often refer to the DTOs as transnational criminal
organizations (TCOs) since they have branched out into other criminal activities, including
human trafficking, kidnapping, armed robbery, and extortion. From 2007 to 2011, kidnapping and
violent vehicular thefts increased at faster annual rates than homicides in Mexico.10 The
expanding techniques used by the traffickers, which have included the use of car bombs and
grenades, have led some observers to liken certain DTOs tactics to those of armed insurgencies.11

For background, see CRS Report R41576, Mexicos Drug Trafficking Organizations: Source and Scope of the
Violence, by June S. Beittel.
8
U.S. Department of State, International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), March 2013,
http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2013/vol1/204050.htm#Mexico. See also: U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA), National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA) Summary: 2013, available at
http://www.justice.gov/dea/resource-center/DIR-017-13%20NDTA%20Summary%20final.pdf.
9
DOJ, National Drug Intelligence Center, NDTA: 2011, August 2011, http://www.justice.gov/ndic/pubs44/44849/
44849p.pdf.
10
From 2007 to 2011, the homicide rate per 100,000 people in Mexico increased by an annual average of 15.4% .
During that same period, kidnappings increased at an average annual rate of 23.5% and armed vehicular robberies by
19.7%. Mexico Evala, Indicadores de Vctimas Visibles y Invisiblesde Homicidio, Mexico, D.F., November 2012,
available at http://mexicoevalua.org/descargables/413537_IVVI-H.pdf.
11
Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, Cartel Evolution Revisited: Third Phase Cartel Potentials and Alternative
Futures in Mexico, Small Wars & Insurgencies, vol. 21, no. 1 (March 2010).

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The Felipe Caldern Administration (December 2006-November 2011) made combating drug
trafficking and organized crime its top domestic priority. Government enforcement efforts, many
of which were led by Mexican military forces, took down leaders from all of the major DTOs,
either through arrests or deaths during operations to detain them. The pace of those takedowns
accelerated beginning in late 2009, partly due to increased U.S.-Mexican intelligence-sharing. In
2009, the Mexican government identified the countrys 37 most wanted criminals, and by October
2012, at least 25 of those alleged criminals had been captured or killed.12 The Caldern
government extradited record numbers of criminals to the United States, including 115 in 2012
(see Figure 2); however few, if any, were successfully prosecuted in Mexico.13 At the same time,
Mexico also experienced record levels of drug trafficking-related violence, partially in response
to government efforts, as criminal organizations split and proliferated.
Drug trafficking-related violence in Mexico may have resulted in some 60,000 deaths over the
course of Calderns presidency; another 25,000 individuals reportedly went missing over that
period, although not all due to criminal activity.14 Several sources have reported that violence
peaked in 2011, before falling in 2012. The violence took place largely in contested drug
production and transit zones representing less than 10% of Mexican municipalities.15
Still, the regions of the country most affected by the violence have shifted over time to include
large cities (such as Monterrey, Nuevo Len) and tourist zones (Acapulco, Guerrero). There have
been incidents of violence across the country, with the security situation in particular areas
changing rapidly. For example, violence spiked dramatically in Ciudad Jurez, Chihuahua, in
2008 and remained at extremely high levels through mid-2011, before rapidly declining.
Upon taking office, President Pea Nietos made violence reduction one of his top priorities.
Organized crime-related violence continued to decline in 2013 as it had during the last year of the
Caldern government, yet serious security challenges remain in many parts of Mexico. President
Pea Nieto has said that organized-crime violence declined by 30% in 2013; experts have
challenged the veracity of government figures.16 Since the government is no longer publicly
releasing information on trends in organized crime-related killings as opposed to all homicides, it
is difficult to analyze the security situation with precision. According to Mexican government
figures, all homicides fell by 16.5% as compared to 2012.17 While violence has declined in some
parts of northern Mexico (including Chihuahua, Baja California, and Nuevo Len), it has spiked
in the interior of the country and along the Pacific Coast, particularly in Michoacn and
neighboring Guerrero. A 2014 State Department Travel Warning cited security concerns in parts
of 19 of Mexicos 32 states.18

12

Mexicos Drug Lords: Kingpin Bowling, The Economist, October 20, 2012.
William Booth, Mexicos Crime Wave has Left About 25,000 Missing, Government Documents Show,
Washington Post, November 29, 2012.
14
TBI, February 2013; Booth op. cit. Mexicos Attorney Generals Office is investigating how many of the
disappearances may have been linked to organized crime or rogue government actors.
15
TBI, February 2013.
16
Mexico Poised to Take-Off, Pea Nieto Tells Davos, Latin News Daily, January 24, 2014; Alejandro Hope,
Homicidios: Algo no Cuadra, Animal Poltico, March 25, 2014.
17
Rafael Cabrera, Menos Homicidios y ms Secuestros Durante 2013: SNSP, Animal Poltico, January 24, 2014.
18
U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Travel Warning: Mexico, January 4, 2014, available at
http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings/mexico-travel-warning.html.
13

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U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Mrida Initiative and Beyond

Figure 1. Map of Mexico

Source: Graphic created by CRS. Map files from Map Resources.

Drug Trafficking-Related Violence in the United States19


The prevalence of drug trafficking-related violence in northern Mexico between 2007 and
2011generated concern among U.S. policy makers that this violence might spill over into the
United States. U.S. officials denied that the increase in drug trafficking-related violence in
Mexico resulted in a significant spillover of violence into the United States, but acknowledged
that the prospect was a real concern.20 As drug trafficking-related violence has declined in
Mexico, so too have concerns about the potential for spillover violence. Nonetheless, policy
makers and experts have monitored the activities of drug trafficking organizations, both in
Mexico and in the United States. Countering the movement of illegal drugs from Mexico into the
U.S. market has remained a top U.S. drug control priority.21
19

For background, see CRS Report R41075, Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover
Violence, by Kristin Finklea.
20
See for example, Department of Homeland Security, Remarks by Secretary Napolitano on Border Security at the
University of Texas at El Paso, press release, January 31, 2011.
21
See, for example, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, National Drug Control Strategy 2013, April 2013.

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Congress faces several policy questions related to potential or actual spillover violence. One
question involves assessing whether the level of violence between the drug trafficking
organizations in Mexico affects either the level or nature of drug trafficking-related violence in
the United States. Of note, violent drug trafficking-related crimes have previously existed and
continue to exist throughout the United States. However, data currently available on these crimes
do not allow analysts to determine whether or how these existing levels of drug trafficking-related
violence in the United States have been affected by the surge of violence in Mexico.

Development and Implementation of the


Mrida Initiative
Evolution of U.S.-Mexican Counterdrug Cooperation
The United States began providing Mexico with equipment and training to eradicate marijuana
and opium poppy fields in the 1970s, but bilateral cooperation declined dramatically after Enrique
Camarena, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent, was assassinated in Mexico in
1985. From the mid-1980s through the end of the 1990s, bilateral cooperation stalled due to U.S.
mistrust of Mexican counterdrug officials and concerns about the Mexican governments
tendency to accommodate drug leaders.22 At the same time, the Mexican government was
reluctant to accept large amounts of U.S. assistance due to its opposition to U.S. drug certification
procedures23 and to concerns about sovereignty. The Mexican government also expressed
opposition to the DEA carrying out operations against drug trafficking organizations in Mexican
territory without authorization. Mexican military officials proved particularly reticent to
cooperate with the U.S. military due to concerns about past U.S. interventions in Mexico.24
U.S.-Mexican cooperation began to improve and U.S. assistance to Mexico increased after the
two countries signed a Binational Drug Control Strategy in 1998. U.S. assistance to Mexico,
which totaled $397 million from FY2000 to FY2006, supported programs aimed at interdicting
cocaine; combating production and trafficking of marijuana, opium poppy, and
methamphetamine; strengthening the rule of law; and countering money-laundering. In 2007, the
Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that while U.S. programs had helped improve
Mexicos counterdrug efforts, drug seizures in Mexico remained relatively low, and corruption
continued to hinder bilateral efforts.25

22

Under this system, arrests and eradication took place, but due to the effects of widespread corruption, the system was
characterized by a working relationship between Mexican authorities and drug lords through the 1990s. Francisco E.
Gonzlez, Mexicos Drug Wars Get Brutal, Current History, February 2009.
23
Beginning in 1986, when the U.S. President was required to certify whether drug producing and drug transit
countries were cooperating fully with the United States, Mexico usually was criticized for its efforts, which in turn led
to increased Mexican government criticism of the U.S assessment. Reforms to the U.S. drug certification process
enacted in September 2002 (P.L. 107-228) essentially eliminated the annual drug certification requirement, and instead
required the President to designate and withhold assistance from countries that had failed demonstrably to make
substantial counternarcotics efforts.
24
Craig A. Deare, U.S.-Mexico Defense Relations: An Incompatible Interface, Strategic Forum, Institute for
National Strategic Studies, National Defense University, July 2009.
25
U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), U.S. Assistance Has Helped Mexican Counternarcotics Efforts, but
the Flow of Illicit Narcotics into the United States Remains High, 08215T, October 2007, available at
(continued...)

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Developing Cooperation through the Mrida Initiative


In October 2007, the United States and Mexico announced the Mrida Initiative, a package of
U.S. assistance for Mexico and Central America that would begin in FY2008.26 The Mrida
Initiative was developed in response to the Caldern governments unprecedented request for
increased U.S. support and involvement in helping Mexico combat drug trafficking and organized
crime. As part of the Mrida Initiatives emphasis on shared responsibility, the Mexican
government pledged to tackle crime and corruption and the U.S. government pledged to address
drug demand and the illicit trafficking of firearms and bulk currency to Mexico.
The Mrida Initiative, as it was originally conceived, sought to (1) break the power and impunity
of criminal organizations; (2) strengthen border, air, and maritime controls; (3) improve the
capacity of justice systems in the region; and (4) curtail gang activity and diminish local drug
demand. U.S. funds provided for the first goal far surpassed all other aid categories. The U.S.
government also provided extensive intelligence-sharing and operational support for Mexican
military and police personnel engaged in anti-crime efforts.
Acknowledging that Mexico cannot effectively confront organized crime with tactical victories
alone, in March 2010, the Obama Administration and the Mexican government agreed to a new
strategic framework for security cooperation under the Mrida Initiative.27 Whereas U.S.
assistance initially focused on training and equipping Mexican security forces for counternarcotic
purposes, it has shifted toward addressing the weak government institutions and underlying
societal problems that have allowed the drug trade to thrive in Mexico. The strategy focuses more
on institution-building than on technology transfers and broadens the scope of bilateral efforts to
include economic development and community-based social programs, areas where Mexico had
not previously sought U.S. support. There is also increasing funding at the sub-national level for
Mexican states and municipalities. The four pillars of the current strategy are:
1. Disrupting the operational capacity of organized criminal groups.
2. Institutionalizing reforms to sustain the rule of law and respect for human rights).
3. Creating a 21st century border.
4. Building strong and resilient communities.
U.S. and Mexican officials have described the Mrida Initiative as a new paradigm for bilateral
security cooperation. As part of Mrida, the Caldern government put sovereignty concerns aside
to allow extensive U.S. involvement in Mexicos domestic security efforts. The two governments
increased cooperation through the establishment of a multi-level working group structure to
design and implement bilateral security efforts that included annual cabinet-level meetings. A
cabinet-level meeting did not occur during the first year of the Pea Nieto government.

(...continued)
http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d071018.pdf.
26
In FY2008 and FY2009, the Mrida Initiative included U.S. assistance to Mexico and Central America. Beginning in
FY2010, Congress separated Central America from the Mexico-focused Mrida Initiative by creating a separate Central
American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI).
27
U.S. Department of State, Joint Statement of the Mrida Initiative High-Level Consultative Group on Bilateral
Cooperation Against Transnational Organized Crime, March 29, 2010.

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Nevertheless, Presidents Obama and Pea Nieto reaffirmed their commitments to the Mrida
Initiatives four pillar strategy during President Obamas trip to Mexico in May 2013. In August
2013, the U.S. and Mexican governments then agreed to focus on justice sector reform, efforts
against money laundering, police and corrections professionalization at the federal and state level,
border security both north and south, and piloting approaches to address root causes of
violence.28 For a detailed discussion of each of the pillars, including new areas of emphasis
within those pillars, see The Four Pillars of the Mrida Initiative below.

Funding the Mrida Initiative


Congress, with the power of the purse, has played a major role in determining the level and
composition of Mrida funding for Mexico. From FY2008 to FY2014, Congress appropriated
more than $2.4 billion for Mexico under the Mrida Initiative (see Table 1 for Mrida
appropriations and Table A-1 in Appendix A for overall U.S. assistance to Mexico). In the
beginning, Congress included funding for Mexico in supplemental appropriations measures in an
attempt to hasten the delivery of certain equipment. Congress has also earmarked funds in order
to ensure that certain programs are prioritized, such as efforts to support institutional reform.
From FY2012 onward, funds provided for pillar two have exceeded all other aid categories.
Congress has sought to influence human rights conditions and encourage efforts to combat abuses
and impunity in Mexico by placing conditions on Mrida-related assistance. Congress directed
that 15% of certain assistance provided to Mexican military and police forces would be subject to
certain human rights conditions. The conditions included in the FY2014 Consolidated
Appropriations Act (P.L. 113-76) are slightly different than in previous years (see Human Rights
Concerns and Conditions on Mrida Initiative Funding). The explanatory statement29
accompanying the Act also requires a report from the State Department within 60 days of the
measures enactment on progress made in meeting the human rights conditions included in
FY2012 and FY2013 appropriations legislation (P.L. 112-74 and P.L. 113-6).30
Table 1. FY2008FY2015 Mrida Funding for Mexico
($ in millions)

Account

FY2008

ESF

FY2009

FY2010

FY2011

FY2012

FY2013

FY2014
(est.)

Account
Totals

FY2015
Request

20.0

15.0

15.0a

18.0

33.3

32.1

46.1

179.5

35.0

INCLE

263.5

406.0

365.0

117.0

248.5

195.1

148.1

1,743.2

80.0

FMF

116.5

299.0

5.3

8.0

N/A

N/A

Total

400.0

720.0

385.3

143.0

227.2

194.2

N/Ab
281.8

428.8

N/A

2,351.5

115.0

28

Testimony of John Feeley, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs,
before the U.S. Congress, House Committee on Homeland Security, Taking Down the Cartels: Examining United
States-Mexican Cooperation, 113th Cong., 2nd sess., April 2, 2014.
29
The statement is available here: http://rules.house.gov/bill/113/hr-3547-sa.
30
The reporting requirement originally appeared in H.Rept. 113-185 accompanying the House Appropriations
Committees version of the FY2014 State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill, H.R. 2855.

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U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Mrida Initiative and Beyond

Sources: U.S. Department of State, Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations FY2008-FY2015.
Notes: ESF=Economic Support Fund; FMF=Foreign Military Financing; INCLE=International Narcotics Control
and Law Enforcement.
a.

$6 million was later reprogrammed for global climate change efforts by the State Department.

b.

Beginning in FY2012, FMF assistance is not included as part of the Mrida Initiative.

Implementation
Over the past few years, Congress has maintained an interest in ensuring that Mrida-funded
equipment and training is delivered efficiently.31 After initial delays in 2009-2010, deliveries
accelerated in 2011, a year in which the U.S. government provided Mexico more than $500
million worth of equipment, training, and technical assistance. As of November 2012, some $1.1
billion worth of assistance had been provided. That total included roughly $873.7 million in
equipment (including 21 aircraft32 and more than $100 million worth of non-intrusive inspection
equipment) and $146.0 million worth of training.
As of February 2014, deliveries had inched upwards to $1.2 billion,33 with roughly $50.7 million
worth of training and equipment delivered in 2013. While $95 million or so in FY2012 INCLE
funding is being withheld due to a congressional hold, significant Mrida funding appropriated
has yet to be delivered. For most of 2013, delays in implementation occurred partially due to the
fact that the Pea Nieto government was still honing its security strategy and determining the
amount and type of U.S. assistance needed to support that strategy. The initial procedure the
government adopted for processing all requests from Mexican ministries for Mrida support
through the Interior Ministry also reportedly contributed to implementation delays.34
By November 2013, the State Department and Mexican Foreign Affairs and Interior Ministries
had agreed to a new, more agile process for approving new Mrida Initiative projects. By midMarch 2014, the governments had agreed to some $309 million worth of new projects, including
$95 million worth of projects in the states.35
U.S. assistance has increasingly focused on supporting efforts to strengthen institutions in Mexico
through training and technical assistance. U.S. funds support training courses offered in new or
refurbished training academies for customs personnel, corrections staff, canine teams, and police
(federal, state, and local).36 Some of that training is designed according to a train the trainer
31

In H.Rept. 112-494, House appropriators maintained that Congress continues to be concerned with the delivery of
assistance to Mexico and urge agencies to use all appropriate means necessary to ensure the prompt delivery of
equipment and training.
32
Aerial equipment deliveries thus far have included four CASA 235 maritime surveillance aircraft, nine UH-60 Black
Hawk helicopters, and eight Bell 412 helicopters. The only pending aircraft delivery is an Intelligence Surveillance,
and Reconnaissance (ISR) Dornier 328-JET aircraft that has been contracted for the Federal Police.
33
U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, Fact Sheet: The Mrida Initiative - An Overview, February 2014, available at
http://photos.state.gov/libraries/mexico/310329/feb2014/Merida-Initiative-Overview-2-14.pdf. Hereinafter, U.S.
Embassy, February 2014.
34
CRS interviews with Mexican analysts in Mexico City, November 19-20, 2013.
35
Electronic correspondence with State Department official, March 31, 2014.
36
Mrida assistance is also supporting Mexican institutions like the National Public Security System (SNSP), which
sets police standards and provides grants to states and municipalities for police training, and the National Institute of
Criminal Sciences (INACIPE), which provides training to judicial sector personnel.

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model in which the academies train instructors who in turn are able to train their own personnel.
As of May 2013, some 19,000 law enforcement officers (including 4,000 federal police
investigators) had completed U.S. courses. Another 8,500 federal and 22,500 state justice sector
personnel had received training on their roles in Mexicos new accusatorial justice system.37
Despite these numbers, high turnover rates within Mexican criminal justice institutions,
particularly since the transition from a PAN to a PRI government has limited the impact of some
U.S. training programs.38

U.S. Efforts to Complement the Mrida Initiative


In the 2007 U.S.-Mexico joint statement announcing the Mrida Initiative, the U.S. government
pledged to intensify its efforts to address all aspects of drug trafficking (including demandrelated portions) and continue to combat trafficking of weapons and bulk currency to Mexico.39
Although not funded through the Mrida Initiative, the U.S. government has made efforts to
address each of these issues (see Appendix B for how those efforts have advanced); some have
been more successful than others. When debating future support for the Mrida Initiative,
Congress may consider whether to simultaneously provide additional funding for these or other
domestic activities that would enhance the United States abilities to fulfill its pledges.

The Pea Nieto Administrations Security Strategy


and the Mrida Initiative
PRI President Enrique Pea Nieto, a former governor of the state of Mexico, took office on
December 1, 2012. Upon his inauguration, the centrist PRI, a nationalistic party that governed
Mexico from 1929 to 2000, retook the presidency after 12 years of rule by the conservative
National Action Party (PAN). The PRI also controls a plurality (but not a majority) in Mexicos
Senate and Chamber of Deputies.
Upon his inauguration, President Pea Nieto announced a reformist agenda with specific
proposals under five broad categories: (1) reducing violence; (2) combating poverty; (3) boosting
economic growth; (4) reforming education; and (5) fostering social responsibility. The aim of
those proposals is to bolster Mexicos competitiveness. Leaders from the PAN and leftist Party of
the Democratic Revolution (PRD) signed on to President Pea Nietos Pact for Mexico, an
agreement aimed at advancing the reform agenda. The Pact facilitated the package of several key
constitutional reforms before falling apart in December 2013. 40
On December 17, 2012, President Pea Nieto outlined a security policy that involves binding
commitments from all levels of government. The six pillars of the strategy include (1) planning;
37
U.S. Congress, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, U.S.-Mexico
Security Cooperation: An Overview of the Merida Initiative 2008Present, 113th Cong., 1st sess., CQ Congressional
Transcripts, May 23, 2013. Hereinafter An Overview of the Merida Initiative, May 2013.
38
CRS interviews with Mexican analysts in Mexico City, May 6-8, 2013.
39
U.S. Department of State and Government of Mexico, Joint Statement on the Mrida Initiative: A New Paradigm
for Security Cooperation, October 22, 2007.
40
For general information on the Pea Nieto Administration, see CRS Report R42917, Mexico: Background and U.S.
Relations, by Clare Ribando Seelke.

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(2) prevention; (3) protection and respect of human rights; (4) coordination; (5) institutional
transformation; and (6) monitoring and evaluation. Two priority proposals Pea Nieto sought to
achieve in the security realm that have been accomplished included launching a national crime
prevention plan and establishing a unified code of criminal procedures to cover judicial
procedures for the federal government and the states. Still, the results of the overall strategy have
been mixed. While organized crime-related homicides continued to trend downward in 2013 as
they had since mid-2011, extortions and kidnappings surged. Key kingpins have been arrested,
but armed civilian self-defense groups41 have spread throughout Mexico and the governments
has struggled to quell unrest in Michoacn (see below).
In order to better coordinate security efforts, President Pea Nieto secured approval from the
Mexican Congress to place the Secretariat of Public Security (that included the Federal Police)
and intelligence functions under the Interior Ministry. That ministry is now the focal point for
security collaboration and intelligence-sharing with foreign governments, as well as with
coordination with state and municipal authorities. The states have in turn been divided into five
geographic regions and are being encouraged, but not required, to stand up unified state police
commands to coordinate with federal forces.
In addition to strengthening the role of the Interior Ministry in security efforts, the Pea Nieto
government envisions a revamped and modernized Attorney Generals Office (PGR). Per reforms
enacted in December 2013, the PGR will eventually be replaced by an independent Prosecutor
Generals Office. Pea Nietos security strategy calls for accelerated implementation of the
judicial reforms passed in 2008, a key priority of pillar two (institutional reform) of the Mrida
Initiative. It also calls for a reduced usage of preventive detention and prison reform that includes
rehabilitation and reinsertion. Some experts predicted that the implementation of judicial reform
will hasten now that the Mexican Congress has approved a unified code of criminal procedure,
which was promulgated in early March 2014, while others are not so certain.42
Pea Nietos security strategy explicitly prioritizes human rights, citizen participation, and crime
prevention; this could portend an increase in bilateral efforts under Mridas pillar two (to protect
human rights through institutional reform) and pillar four (to build resilient communities). Pea
Nietos strategy pledges to increase victims assistance as per the Victims Law enacted in
January 2013, transfer cases of military abuses against civilians to civilian courts, and find
missing persons while also preventing future disappearances. Human rights groups have been
critical of government efforts to translate that rhetoric into reality, however.43 The government
launched a national prevention program focused on 57 high-crime communities with a $9 billion
budget for 2013 that included socioeconomic, education, infrastructure, and drug treatment
41
There is a tradition of rural self-defense groups or community police in more remote and often indigenous parts of
Mexico because of a lack of access to police and other justice sector services in those communities. For example, in
parts of Guerrero, the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities (CRAC is the Spanish acronym), was formed
by indigenous communities to establish a police force and a system of indigenous justice in the mid-1990s. The newer
self-defense groups that spread rapidly in 2013 are more ad hoc and not necessarily tied to indigenous communities.
They pursue criminal groups to other towns and cities; are self-appointed, sometimes gaining recruits who are former
migrants returned from or deported from the United States; and many are heavily armed.
42
For information on the pros and cons of the new code, see Viridiana Rios, Justice in Mexico: The Mexican Drug
Wars Most Important Change that Nobody Noticed, Harvard Kennedy School Review, March 26, 2014.
43
Maureen Meyer and Clay Boggs, One Year into Mexican President Enrique Pea Nietos Administration: Little
Progress has been made on Security or Human Rights, press release, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA),
November 27, 2013.

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programs. The program has been criticized, however, for lacking a rigorous methodology for
selecting and evaluating the communities and interventions that it is funding.44
While U.S. and Mexican interests coalesced around security concerns along the border during the
Caldern Administration, they have focused more on how to promote economic dynamism under
pillar three of the Mrida Initiative (creating a 21st century border) since Pea Nieto took office.
On September 20, 2013, Pea Nieto and Vice President Joseph Biden announced plans to enhance
cooperation in border trade and security as part of the first annual U.S.-Mexico High-Level
Economic Dialogue. Describing the U.S.-Mexican border as the busiest in the world, President
Pea Nieto stated that a top goal is to streamline trade and improve border crossing infrastructure
so that the transit of both people and trade will become more efficient, faster, and safer.45 Both
governments are also discussing ways to expand pillar three efforts to Mexicos southern borders.
Some details of Pea Nietos security strategy that will have implications for U.S.-Mexican
cooperation have yet to be well defined. For example, the strategy envisions a continued role for
the Mexican military in public security efforts through at least 2015; whether and how the role of
the military will be different than under the Caldern government still needs to be clarified. The
Federal Police is being reformed, rather than dismantled, but how the force will be reconfigured
to focus on investigations and combating key crimes (such as kidnapping and extortion) remains
to be seen. In addition to a reconfigured Federal Police, President Pea Nieto initially proposed to
create a new militarized police entity with some 50,000 officers, the National Gendarmerie,
whose forces were to be drawn from the military but placed under the control of the Interior
Ministry. That proposal has since been scaled back to consist of a new unit within the Federal
Police composed of some 5,000 officers that will begin operating in mid-2014.
In general, the Pea Nieto governments approach to security has been described as more low
profile than that of former President Caldern, who publicized kingpin arrests and drug seizures
and highlighted U.S.-Mexican joint operations. While that may describe his public relations
approach, some analysts maintain that Pea Nieto has quietly maintained a security approach
similar to that of Caldern, including a high level of cooperation with the United States.46 Indeed,
despite some restrictions placed on U.S. security agencies working in Mexico, U.S. intelligence
reportedly helped Mexican marines successfully track and arrest Miguel Angel Trevio Morales
(Z-40), the leader of Los Zetas, in July 2013.47 The Mexican government arrested some 69
other top drug traffickers in 2013.48 U.S. intelligence, wiretaps, and surveillance equipment, along
with embedded Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents and U.S. Marshals, recently
helped the Mexican marines (SEMAR) track and capture Joaqun El Chapo Guzmnthe
worlds most wanted drug traffickerwithout a shot being fired.49
44

Mxico Evalua, Prevencin del Delito en Mxico: Dnde Qued la Evidencia?, January 2014, available at
http://www.mexicoevalua.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/MEX-EVA_INDX-PREVDEL-LOW.pdf
45
Maja Wallengren, Biden, Mexicos Pea Nieto Inaugurate new Initiative to Enhance Trade, Cooperation,
International Trade Reporter, September 24, 2013.
46
Alfredo Mndez, Pea Nieto Mantiene el Errtico Plan de Seguridad de Caldern, Dicen Juristas, La Jornada, July
30, 2013.
47
No Shots Fired: Leader of Mexicos Zetas Cartel Captured in Precision Operation, with U.S. Help, Associated
Press, July 16, 2013.
48
Dudley Althaus, Mexico 2013 Target List: Many Zetas, Little Impact, In Sight Crime: Organized Crime in the
Americas, December 23, 2013.
49
Damien Cave, How a Kingpin Above the Law Fell, Incredibly, Without a Shot, New York Times, February 23,
2014; Joshua Partlow and Sari Horwitz, U.S. and Mexican Authorities Detail Coordinated Effort to Capture Drug
(continued...)

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Michoacn: Confronting DTOs and Dealing with Self-Defense Groups50


What criminal groups operate in Michoacn?
During the Caldern Administration, the restive state of Michoacn demonstrated the limits of the strategy of
deploying federal forces to go after kingpins. The situation in Michoacn has become even more complicated over the
past year or so as civilian self-defense groups have armed themselves and sought to reclaim territory from the Knights
Templar, the dominant criminal organization in the state. Like its hyper-violent predecessor, La Familia Michoacana
(LFM), the Knights Templar claim to be an evangelical Christian, vigilante group fighting in order to defend the state
from predatory drug cartels such as Los Zetas and other regional DTOs such as Jalisco New Generation Cartel
(CJNG). The Knights Templar not only engage in drug trafficking, but have extracted rents from the Port of Lzaro
Crdenas, mining operations, farmers, and businesses throughout the state.
What are self-defense groups?
In Michoacn, the self-defense militias (sometimes described as vigilantes) consist of armed civilians, mainly from rural
areas, who claim they are fighting because they have lost confidence in the Mexican governments willingness or
capacity to combat the Knights Templar. Local businesses weary of extortion and violent crime have provided funding
to the self-defense groups, but authorities fear they may be extending their ties to competing organized crime groups,
such as the CJNG, to obtain weapons and resources. Several self-defense group leaders have been deported from the
United States; one has recently been arrested for murder.51 Another has refused a government order to disarm.52
What is the Federal Governments Policy in Michoacn?
During his first year in office, President Pea Nieto appeared to downplay security concerns that were brewing in
certain states, including Michoacn. In November 2013, Pea Nieto sent Federal Police and military officials to take
control of the Port of Lzaro Crdenas from municipal police forces. By mid-January 2014, armed conflicts had
broken out between the Knights Templar and self-defense groups. President Pea Nieto designated a special envoy
for Michoacn, Alfredo Castillo, to coordinate federal efforts on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior with state and
local authorities. Federal efforts included the deployment of 10,000 Federal Police and Army troops and the
designation of some $3.4 billion in federal funding to be spent in the state. Rather than combating both the Knights
Templar and forcibly disarming the self-defense groups simultaneously, the Pea Nieto government initially decided to
absorb the civilian militias into rural defense corps53 under the authority of the Army. Those who are registered,
who reportedly numbered 900 individuals as of mid-March 2014,54 are supposed to receive basic training, a uniform,
and the ability to legally carry weapons as per an agreement reached with the government. They will not be paid.55
The government has recently told the self-defense forces to disarm, but they have resisted. 56
What has the strategy achieved thus far? The strategy has reportedly led to the arrest of more than 500 criminals
and the killing of two of the leaders of the Knights Templar: Nazario Moreno, who had been erroneously reported as
dead by the Caldern government, and Enrique Plancarte.57

(...continued)
Lord, Washington Post, February 23, 2014.
50
June S. Beittel, Analyst in Latin American Affairs, contributed to this section.
51
Alfredo Corchado, Mexicos Ties to Vigilante Groups Unravel, Dallas Morning News, March 14, 2014.
52
Richard Fausset and Cecilia Sanchez, Mexican vigilante leader refuses government order to disarm, Los Angeles
Times, April 7, 2014.
53
According to Inigo Guevara, a Mexican defense analyst, the origins of the rural defense corps can be traced back to
the 1860s when civilians were recruited to patrol roads near Mexico City. Although their mission has changed over
time, they have usually been recruited on a temporary basis by military commanders in different zones to provide
various forms of rural citizen protection.
54
Nacha Cattan, El Americanos 400 Gunmen Undermine Mexico Bid to Cut Violence, Bloomberg, March 28,
2014.
55
Mexico: Vigilantes to be Drafted into Security Organs, Latin American Weekly Report, January 30, 2014.
56
Fausset, op. cit.
57
Ral Benitez Manaut, as cited in: Inter-American Dialogue, Is Mexico Winning or Losing the Battle for the Rule of
(continued...)

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Why is this strategy risky? Many questions remain concerning this new policy. To what extent, if at all, is the Army
vetting the self-defense groups for ties to crime groups? How is the Army ensuring that the groups do not get their
weapons (at least new weapons) through illicit means? What type of training is being given to the newly-established
rural defense corps? How is the Army exerting oversight over the actions of the rural defense corps? How will the
groups react now that one of their leaders has been arrested? How long will the corps be needed in Michoacn and
how will they be disbanded once they are no longer needed? How will the government prevent the rural defense
groups from becoming permanent paramilitary forces?

The Four Pillars of the Mrida Initiative


Pillar One: Disrupting the Operational Capacity of
Organized Crime
During the Caldern Administration, Mexico focused much of its efforts on dismantling the
leadership of the major DTOs. U.S. assistance appropriated during the first phase of the Mrida
Initiative (FY2008-FY2010) enabled the purchase of equipment to support the efforts of federal
security forces engaged in anti-DTO efforts. That equipment included $590.5 million worth of
aircraft and helicopters, as well as forensic equipment for the Federal Police and Attorney
Generals respective crime laboratories. As the DTOs continue to employ new weapons, new
types of training and/or equipment may be needed to help security officials combat those new
threats. U.S. surveillance equipment reportedly aided the Mexican marines in tracking and
capturing both Miguel Angel Trevio Morales and Joaqun El Chapo Guzmn.58 As the Pea
Nieto government establishes a National Gendarmerie within the Interior Ministry and a Criminal
Investigative Agency or AIC within the Attorney Generals Office (PGR), increased assistance
may be requested to assist those entities, as well as existing federal forces.
The Mexican government has increasingly been conceptualizing the DTOs as for-profit
corporations. Consequently, its strategy, and U.S. efforts to support it, has begun to focus more
attention on disrupting the criminal proceeds used to finance DTOs operations, although much
more could be done in that area.59 In August 2010, the Mexican government imposed limits on
the amount of U.S. dollars that individuals can exchange or deposit each month. In October 2012,
the Mexican Congress approved an anti-money laundering law establishing a financial crimes
unit within the PGR, subjecting industries vulnerable to money laundering to new reporting
requirements, and creating new criminal offenses for money laundering. Future Mrida assistance
could be used to provide additional equipment and technical assistance to units within the Finance
Ministry and the PGR that are investigating money laundering cases.
As mentioned, the DTOs are increasingly evolving into poly-criminal organizations, perhaps as a
result of drug interdiction efforts cutting into their profits. As a result, many have urged both
(...continued)
Law? Latin America Advisor, March 20, 2014; Mexican Marines Kill Templar Cartels Leader, Associated Press,
April 1, 2014.
58
No Shots Fired: Leader of Mexicos Zetas Cartel Captured in Precision Operation, with U.S. Help, Associated
Press, July 16, 2013; Partlow and Horwitz, op. cit.
59
Randal C. Archibold, Vast Web Hides Mexican Drug Profits in Plain Sight, U.S. Authorities Say, New York Times,
March 25, 2014.

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governments to focus on combating other types of organized crime, such as kidnapping and alien
smuggling. Some may therefore question whether the funding provided under the Mrida
Initiative is being used to adequately address all forms of transnational organized crime.
Intelligence-sharing and cross-border law enforcement operations and investigations have been
suggested as possible areas for increased cooperation. During the Caldern Administration, U.S.
law enforcement and intelligence officials supported Mexican intelligence-gathering efforts in
northern Mexico and U.S. drones gathered information that was shared with Mexican officials. A
$13 million cross-border telecommunications system for sister cities along the U.S.-Mexico
border that was funded by the Mrida Initiative is facilitating information-sharing among law
enforcement operating in that region as well. Bilateral intelligence-sharing and law enforcement
cooperation has continued under the Pea Nieto government, with U.S. assistance supporting the
development of five regional intelligence centers.
A general question that may arise for policy makers as they review the Administrations budget
requests for the Mrida Initiative is whether proposed funding would be used to expand existing
bilateral partnerships (described in Appendix B), or to establish new partnerships. This may
depend on the effectiveness of current partnerships, as well as whether new partnerships are
needed to address emerging law enforcement challenges. As U.S. assistance increasingly flows to
state-level law enforcement in Mexico, policy makers may consider if and to what extent those
forces should participate in bilateral law enforcement partnerships. Finally, as Mexico receives
U.S. equipment and training to secure its southern borders with Guatemala and Belize, the need
for more regional partnerships with those countries might also arise.

Pillar Two: Institutionalizing Reforms to Sustain the Rule of Law


and Respect for Human Rights in Mexico60
Reforming Mexicos corrupt and inefficient criminal justice system is widely regarded as a
crucial for combating criminality, strengthening the rule of law, and better protecting citizen
security and human rights in the country.61 Due to concerns about the corruption and
ineffectiveness of police and prosecutors, less than 13% of all crimes are reported in Mexico.62
Even so, recent spikes in violence and criminality have overwhelmed Mexicos law enforcement
and judicial institutions, with record numbers of arrests rarely resulting in successful convictions.
Increasing cases of human rights abuses committed by authorities at all levels, as well as
Mexicos inability to investigate and punish those accused of abuses, are also pressing concerns.
Federal police reform got underway during the Caldern Administration, although recent cases of
police misconduct have highlighted lingering concerns about federal forces. A major challenge
has been expanding police reform efforts to the state and municipal level, possibly through statelevel unified police commands. Mrida funding has been used to extend U.S.-funded federal
police training efforts to police from all 32 states through a National Police Training Program.
60

For more information on this pillar, see CRS Report R43001, Supporting Criminal Justice System Reform in Mexico:
The U.S. Role, by Clare Ribando Seelke.
61
David Shirk, The Drug War in Mexico: Confronting a Shared Threat, Council on Foreign Relations, March 2011,
available at http://www.cfr.org/mexico/drug-war-mexico/p24262.
62
Gobierto Federal de Mexico, Instituto Nacional de Estadsticas y Geografa (INEGI), 2012 Encuesta Nacional de
Victimizacin y Percepcin sobre Seguridad Pblica.

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With impunity rates hovering around 82% for homicide and even higher for other crimes,63
experts maintain that it is crucial for Mexico to implement the judicial reforms passed in the
summer of 2008 and to focus on fighting corruption at all levels of government. In order for
Mexico to transition its criminal justice system to an accusatorial system with oral trials by 2016,
many have argued that U.S.-funded judicial training programs need to be expanded. And, while
U.S. assistance has helped federal prisons expand and improve, thousands of federal prisoners are
still being housed in state prisons that are overcrowded and often extremely insecure.64

Reforming the Police


Police corruption has presented additional challenges to the campaign against DTOs in Mexico.
While corruption has most often plagued municipal and state police forces, in June 2012 corrupt
Federal Police officers involved in running a drug smuggling ring out of the Mexico City airport
killed three of their colleagues. Corrupt officials have also been dismissed from the PGRs
organized crime unit, as well as its police force.
The Caldern Administration took steps to reform Mexicos police forces by dramatically
increasing police budgets, raising selection standards, and enhancing police training and
equipment at the federal level. It also created a national database through which police at all
levels can share information and intelligence, and accelerated implementation of a national police
registry. President Caldern initially proposed the creation of one unified federal police force
under the Secretariat for Public Security (SSP), but two laws passed in 2009 created a Federal
Police (FP) force under the SSP and a Federal Ministerial Police (PFM) force under the PGR,
both with some investigative functions.65 It took the Mexican government another year to issue
regulations delineating the roles and responsibilities of these two police entities. It remains to be
seen how the Pea Nieto governments placement of the SSP under the authority of the Interior
Ministry, its creation of a new National Gendarmerie, and its decision to put the PFM within the
PGRs investigative agency will affect bilateral efforts. U.S. officials have offered to help Mexico
develop national policing standards.66
Whereas initiatives to recruit, vet, train, and equip the FP under the SSP rapidly advanced (with
support from the Mrida Initiative), efforts to build the PGRs police force have lagged behind.
According to the State Department, Mrida funding supported specialized training courses to
improve federal police investigations, intelligence collection and analysis, and anti-money
laundering capacity, as well as the construction of regional command and control centers.67 The
63

In other words, about 82% of perpetrators have not been brought to justice. Guillermo Zepeda, Seguridad y Justicia
Penal en los Estados: 25 Indicadores de Nuestra Debilidad Institucional, Mexico Evala, March 2012.
64
Federal prison reform in Mexico began in 2008. U.S. funding supported the refurbishment of a federal penitentiary
academy in Veracruz and the accreditation of eight of Mxicos federal facilities and five state prisons in Chihuahua by
the American Correctional Association (ACA). U.S. training has heretofore been provided at the federal academy and
the academy in Chihuahua, as well as in courses offered in Colorado and New Mexico. It is gradually being expanded
in 2014 into Baja California, Baja California Sur, Coahuila, the Federal District, Nuevo Len, the state of Mexico,
Tamaulipas, and Veracruz, with a focus on bringing those academies up to ACA accreditation standards. Email from
State Department official in Mexico City, March 28, 2014.
65
Daniel Sabet, Police Reform in Mexico: Advances and Persistent Obstacles, Woodrow Wilson Centers Mexico
Institute, Working Paper Series on U.S.-Mexico Security Cooperation, May 2010, available at
http://www.wilsoncenter.org/topics/pubs/Sabet.pdf.
66
An Overview of the Mrida Initiative, May 2013.
67
U.S. Department of State, FY2010 Mrida Initiative Spending Plan for Mexico, June 10, 2010.

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Caldern government also sought U.S. technical assistance in developing in-service evaluations
and internal investigative units to prevent and punish police corruption and human rights abuses,
although experts maintain that much more could be done in that area. Mrida assistance has also
supported the PFM, although not to the same degree. U.S. training is now being provided to the
PFM under the PGRs newly-established criminal investigative agency or AIC;68 it could
potentially support new FP units dedicated to combating kidnapping and extortion.
Thus far, state and local police reform has lagged behind federal police reform efforts. A public
security law codified in January 2009 established vetting and certification procedures for state
and local police to be overseen by the National Public Security System (SNSP). Federal subsidies
have been provided to state and municipal units whose officers meet certain standards.
Nevertheless, as of November 2012, the head of the SNSP at that time reported that only six
states had complied with the 2009 laws requirement that all state and municipal police officers
be vetted by January 2013; that deadline since has been extended. Still, concerns have been raised
about the tests reliability. And, even in states where vetting requirements have been met, a
significant percentage of officers who failed the tests have remained on the job.69
The establishment of unified state police commands that could potentially absorb municipal
police forces has been debated in Mexico for years.70 The Mexican Congress failed to pass a
constitutional reform proposal put forth by the Caldern government to establish unified state
police commands. Nevertheless, President Pea Nieto is helping states move in that direction. In
the meantime, some states have moved forward with plans to do away with municipal forces.
The outcome of the aforementioned reform efforts could have implications for U.S. initiatives to
expand Mrida assistance to state and municipal police forces, particularly as the Mexican
government determines how to organize and channel that assistance. Mrida funding has
supported state-level academies in Chihuahua, Nuevo Len, Puebla, and Sonora. The U.S. and
Mexican governments have agreed to expand U.S. support to state academies in Chiapas, the
Federal District, the state of Mexico, Michoacn, and Veracruz. 71 In 2013, Mrida funds
supported training courses for 2,000 state and local police in officer safety, securing crime scene
preservation, investigation techniques, and intelligence-gathering.
In order to complement these efforts, analysts have maintained that it is important to provide
assistance to civil society and human rights-related non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in
Mexico in order to strengthen their ability to monitor police conduct and provide input on
policing policies. Some maintain that citizen participation councils, combined with internal
control mechanisms and stringent punishments for police misconduct, can have a positive impact
on police performance and police-community relations. Others have mentioned the importance of
establishing citizen observatories to develop reliable indicators to track police and criminal justice
system performance, as has been done in some states.

68

La PGR crea la nueva Agencia de Investigacin Criminal, CNN Mxico, September 25, 2013.
Mexico: the Tough Task of Cleaning up the Police, Latin American Weekly Report, November 15, 2012.
70
Proponents of the reform maintain that it would improve coordination with the federal government and bring
efficiency, standardization, and better trained and equipped police to municipalities. Skeptics argue that police
corruption has been a major problem at all levels of the Mexican policing system and argue that there is a role for
municipal police who are trained to deal with local issues.
71
Electronic correspondence with State Department official, March 28, 2014.
69

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Reforming the Judicial and Penal Systems


The Mexican judicial system has been widely criticized for being opaque, inefficient, and corrupt.
It is plagued by long case backlogs, a high pre-trial detention rate, and an inability to secure
convictions. The vast majority of drug trafficking-related arrests that have occurred over the last
six years have not resulted in successful prosecutions. The PGR has also been unable to secure
charges in many high-profile cases involving the arrests of politicians accused of collaborating
with organized crime, such as Gregorio Sanchez, the former mayor of Cancun.72
Mexican prisons, particularly at the state level, are also in need of significant reforms. Increasing
arrests have caused prison population to expand significantly, as has the use of preventive
detention. Those suspected of involvement in organized crime can be held by the authorities for
40 days without access to legal counsel, with a possible extension of another 40 days, a practice
known as arraigo (pre-charge detention) that has led to serious abuses by authorities.73
Mexicos Attorney General has spoken out against the excessive use of arraigo, but the
government continues to say it is necessary to facilitate some types of investigations.74 Many
inmates (perhaps 40%) are awaiting trials, as opposed to serving sentences. As of July 2013,
prisons were at 22% over-capacity.75 Prison breaks are common in state facilities, many of which
are controlled by crime groups.
In June 2008, then-President Caldern signed a judicial reform decree after securing the approval
of Congress and Mexicos states for an amendment to Mexicos Constitution. Under the reform,
Mexico has until 2016 to replace its trial procedures at the federal and state level, moving from a
closed-door process based on written arguments to a public trial system with oral arguments and
the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. In addition to oral trials, judicial systems are
expected to adopt additional means of alternative dispute resolution, which should help make it
more flexible and efficient, thereby relieving some of the pressure on the countrys prison system.
To implement the reforms, Mexico will need to implement the unified code of criminal procedure
at the federal and state level, build new courtrooms, retrain current legal professionals, update law
school curricula, and improve forensic technologya difficult and expensive undertaking.
Six years into the reform process, progress had, until recently, stalled at the federal level. From
the beginning, analysts had predicted that progress in advancing judicial reform was likely to be
very slow as capacity constraints and entrenched interests in the judicial system (including
judges) delay any changes.76 Still, the Caldern government devoted more attention towards

72
Patrick Corcoran, Mayor Goes Free, Mexico Fails Again to Prosecute Corrupt Politicians, In Sight Organized
Crime in the Americas, July 21, 2011.
73
This practice first came into existence in the 1980s, and was formally incorporated into the Mexican Constitution
through a constitutional amendment passed in 2008 as a legal instrument to fight organized crime. Its use has been
criticized by several United Nations bodies, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights of the Organization of
American States, and international and Mexican human rights organizations. For more, see Janice Deaton, Arraigo and
Legal Reform in Mexico, University of San Diego, June 2010.
74
U.S. Department of State, Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2013: Mexico, February 2014,
http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/#wrapper. Hereinafter: Country Report: Mexico, February 2014.
Tanya Montalvo, Para Proteger el xito de una Investigacin: as Defiende Mxico al Arraigo, Animal Poltico,
March 31, 2014.
75
Country Report: Mexico, February 2014.
76
Mexico Risk: Legal and Regulatory Risk, Economist Intelligence Unit-Risk Briefing, January 8, 2010.

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modernizing the police than strengthening the justice system.77 In addition, some of the tough
measures for handling organized crime cases it included in the 2008 judicial reforms appear to
run counter to the spirit of the reforms, which include protections for the rights of the accused.78
Former President Caldern proposed a new federal criminal procedure code (CPC)a key
element needed to guide reform effortsin September 2011, but it was not enacted.
President Pea Nieto has repeatedly pledged to advance judicial reform and overhaul the PGR.
The Mexican Congress approved a unified code of criminal procedure to cover the entire judicial
system in February 2014; it was promulgated in early March, 2014. Experts have guardedly
praised that development, but remain unsure of how it will affect reform efforts, particularly in
states that had already adopted new codes.79
In contrast to this lack of progress at the federal level, the reform has moved forward in many
Mexican states. As of August 2013, 26 of Mexicos 32 states had enacted legislation to begin the
transition to an oral and adversarial justice system and 16 states had begun operating at least
partially under the new system.80 Reform states have seen positive initial results as compared to
non-reform states: faster case resolution times, less pre-trial detention, and tougher sentences for
cases that go to trial.81 Still, daunting challenges remain, including the need to improve the
investigative capacity of police and prosecutors, counter-reform efforts, and opposition from
judges and other key justice sector operators.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is concentrating most of its work in
support of judicial reform at the state level. USAID had been supporting code reform, judicial
exchanges, alternative dispute resolution, and Citizens Participation Councils, as well as training
justice sector operators in five Mexican states since 2004. USAID expanded its rule of law efforts
with roughly $104 million in FY2008-FY2012 Mrida assistance, a significant portion of which
is supporting comprehensive judicial reform programs in 7 of Mexicos 32 states. USAID plans to
expand its programs into at least 13 other states, with assistance to each state tailored to the stage
that it is at in the reform process. USAID and the State Deparment also provide technical
assistance to federal entity within the Interior Ministry that is charged with coordinating the
federal and state level reform efforts, the Technical Secretariat for Criminal Justice Sector Reform
Implementation (SETEC).
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has supported judicial reform at the federal level, including
providing technical assistance to the Congress during the drafting and adoption of a unified CPC.
DOJ has administered some $46 million in State Department funding. In 2012, DOJ worked with
the PGR to design and implement a national training program known as Project Diamante
through which 7,700 prosecutors, investigators, and forensic experts were trained to work as a
team rather than in isolation (as was customary). DOJ also implemented a training program in
77

Andrew Selee and Eric L. Olson, Steady Advances, Slow Results: U.S.-Mexico Security Cooperation After Two Years
of the Obama Administration, Woodrow Wilson Centers Mexico Institute, April 2011.
78
For a discussion of these concerns and the reform process in general, see David Shirk, Criminal Justice Reform in
Mexico: An Overview, Mexican Law Review, vol. 2, no. 3 (January-June 2011).
79
Ros, op. cit.
80
Country Report: Mexico, February 2014.
81
USAID, Justice Studies Center of the Americas, and Coordination Council for the Implementation of the Criminal
Justice System and its Technical Secretariat (SETEC); Monitoring the Implementation of the Criminal Justice Reform
in Chihuahua, the State of Mexico, Morelos, Oaxaca, and Zacatecas: 2007-2011, November 2012.

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Puerto Rico for Mexican federal judges. Building on Project Diamante, the PGR is using
Diamante instructors and the Diamante training management and evaluation team to begin a pilot
program to transition its personnel and operations to the accusatorial system in Durango and
Puebla. DOJ and PGR have a working group that will monitor the progress of the transition,
evaluate the challenges faced, and disseminate lessons learns to PGR staff in other states.
Congress has expressed support for the continued provision of U.S. assistance for judicial reform
efforts in Mexico in appropriations legislation, hearings, and committee reports. Congressional
funding and oversight of judicial reform programs in Mexico is likely to continue for many years.
Over time, Congress may consider how best to divide funding between the federal and state
levels; how to sequence and coordinate support to key elements within the rule of law spectrum
(police, prosecutors, courts); and how the efficacy of U.S. programs is being measured.

Pillar Three: Creating a 21st Century Border


Policy makers have questioned not only what it means to have a 21st century border, but
specifically how this will enhance law enforcements abilities to combat the drug trafficking
organizations and reduce the related violence. In an increasingly globalized world, the notion of a
border is necessarily more complex than a physical line between two sovereign nations.
Consequently, the proposed 21st century border is based on (1) enhancing public safety via
increased information sharing, screenings, and prosecutions; (2) securing the cross-border flow of
goods and people; (3) expediting legitimate commerce and travel through investments in
personnel, technology, and infrastructure; (4) engaging border communities in cross-border trade;
and (5) setting bilateral policies for collaborative border management.82
On May 19, 2010, the United States and Mexico declared their intent to collaborate on enhancing
the U.S.-Mexican border.83 A Twenty-First Century Border Bilateral Executive Steering
Committee (ESC) met in December 2010, December 2011, and April 2013 to develop bi-national
action plans for the subsequent year.84 The plans are focused on setting measurable goals within
broad objectives: coordinating infrastructure development, expanding trusted traveler and
shipment programs, establishing pilot projects for cargo pre-clearance, improving cross-border
commerce and ties, and bolstering information sharing among law enforcement agencies.
Both the United States and Mexico spend significant fundsoutside of Mridarelated to border
security. Because border policies and practices have been different along the U.S. side of the
Southwest border and the Mexican side, each countrys goals in further developing the border
may necessarily differ as well. A related issue is whether funds appropriated under the revised
Mrida Initiative should be divided equally or equitably between border initiatives on the U.S.
and Mexican sides of the border.
82
U.S. Department of State, United States - Mexico Partnership: A New Border Vision, press release, March 23,
2010. See also U.S. Department of State, United States - Mexico Partnership: Managing our 21st Century Border,
Fact Sheet, April 30, 2013.
83
The White House, Declaration by The Government Of The United States Of America and The Government Of The
United Mexican States Concerning Twenty-First Century Border Management, press release, May 19, 2010. As
mentioned, U.S. - Mexican security cooperation along the border did not begin with the Mrida Initiative. This ESC is
one of the most recent developments in the bilateral cooperation.
84
More information on the 2013 Action Plan is available at https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/21cb2013-action-plan.pdf.

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While policy makers may generally question what constitutes a 21st century border, they may
more specifically question which aspects of this border will be mutually beneficial to both U.S.
and Mexican efforts to combat the DTOs. Although a key goal of the Mrida Initiative is to
combat the DTOs and their criminal activities, the U.S. border strategy does not discriminate
between combating drug trafficking-related illicit activities and other illegal behaviors along the
border. The current U.S. border strategy strives to secure and manage the U.S. border through
obtaining effective control of the borders, safeguarding lawful trade and travel, and identifying
and disrupting transnational criminal organizations.85 As such, it remains to be seen whether
enhancements to the border will specifically support the Mrida Initiatives goal of combating the
DTOs or whether the funds put toward border development will result in a general strengthening
of the security of the borderand, as a byproduct, aid in disrupting drug trafficking activities.

Northbound and Southbound Inspections86


One element of concern regarding enhanced bilateral border security efforts is that of southbound
inspections of people, goods, vehicles, and cargo. In particular, both countries have
acknowledged a shared responsibility in fueling and combating the illicit drug trade. Policy
makers may question who is responsible for performing northbound and southbound inspections
in order to prevent illegal drugs from leaving Mexico and entering the United States and to
prevent dangerous weapons and the monetary proceeds of drug sales from leaving the United
States and entering Mexico. Further, if this is a joint responsibility, it is unclear how U.S. and
Mexican border officials will divide the responsibility of inspections to maximize the possibility
of stopping the illegal flow of goods while simultaneously minimizing the burden on the
legitimate flow of goods and preventing the duplication of efforts.
In addition to its inbound/northbound inspections, the United States has undertaken steps to
enhance its outbound/southbound screening procedures. Currently, DHS is screening 100% of
southbound rail shipments for illegal weapons, cash, and drugs. Also, CBP scans license plates
along the Southwest border with the use of automated license plate readers (LPRs). Further, CBP
employs Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) systemsboth large-scale and mobileto aid in
inspection and processing of travelers and shipments. As of May 2013, CBP had 309 large-scale
NII systems deployed to and in between U.S. ports of entry.87
Historically, Mexican Customs had not served the role of performing southbound (or inbound)
inspections. As part of the revised Mrida Initiative, CBP has helped to establish a Mexican
Customs training academy to support professionalization and promote the Mexican Customs new
role of performing inbound inspections. Additionally, CBP is assisting Mexican Customs in
developing investigator training programs and the State Department has provided over 300
canines to assist with the inspections.88
85

For a fuller discussion of U.S. border security policies, see CRS Report R42138, Border Security: Immigration
Enforcement Between Ports of Entry, by Lisa Seghetti. CRS was unable to locate an official Mexican border strategy
for comparison with the U.S. border strategy.
86
There is a dearth of open-source data that currently measures the extent of inbound and outbound inspections
performed by both the United States and Mexico along the Southwest border. Rather, existing data tend to address
seizures of drugs, guns, and money as well as apprehensions of suspects. Therefore, this section addresses current U.S.
and additional initiatives to bolster cross-border inspections.
87
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) Technology, Fact Sheet, May 2013.
88
Embassy of Mexico, Fact Sheet: The Mrida InitiativeAn Overview, February 2014.

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Preventing Border Enforcement Corruption


Another point that policy makers may question regarding the strengthening of the Southwest
border is how to prevent the corruption of U.S. and Mexican border officials who are charged
with securing the border. On March 11, 2010, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and
Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on State, Local, and Private Sector Preparedness and
Integration held a hearing on the corruption of U.S. border officials by Mexican DTOs. According
to testimony from the hearing, in FY2009, the DHS Inspector General opened 839 investigations
of DHS employees. Of the 839 investigations, 576 were of CBP employees, 164 were of ICE
employees, 64 were of Citizen and Immigration Services (CIS) employees, and 35 were of
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees.89 It is unknown, however, how many
of these cases involve alleged corruption by Mexican DTOs or how many involve suspected
corruption of DHS employees working along the Southwest border. Data from a 2013 GAO
report can provide a snapshot of the proportion of corruption involving Southwest border
officials:
From fiscal years 2005 through 2012, a total of 144 [CBP] employees were arrested or
indicted for corruption-related activities, including the smuggling of aliens or drugs... About
65 percent (93 of 144 arrests) were employees stationed along the southwest border.90

To date, the Administrations proposal for a 21st century border has not directly addressed this
issue of corruption. Congress may consider whether preventing, detecting, and prosecuting public
corruption of border enforcement personnel should be a component of the border initiatives
funded by the Mrida Initiative. If the corruption is as pervasive as officials say,91 resources
provided for new technologies and initiatives along the border may be diminished or negated by
corrupt border personnel. For instance, at the end of 2009, CBP was able to polygraph between
10% and 15% of applicants applying for border patrol positions, and of those who were
polygraphed, about 60% were found unsuitable for service.92 If this pattern holds true and 85%90% of current new hires were not subjected to a polygraph, anywhere between 51% and 54% of
all CBP new-hires may not be found suitable for service. Further, between October 1, 2004, and
March 11, 2010, 103 CBP officers were arrested or indicted on mission-critical corruption
charges including drug smuggling, alien smuggling, money laundering and conspiracy.93 Further,
in FY2011 and FY2012, sixteen CBP employees were arrested or indicted for mission-

89

See testimony by Thomas M. Frost, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations, U.S. Department of Homeland
Security before the U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Ad Hoc
Subcommittee on State, Local, and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration, New Border War: Corruption of U.S.
Officials by Drug Cartels, 111th Cong., 1st sess., March 11, 2010.
90
U.S. Government Accountability Office, Border Security: Additional Actions Needed to Strengthen CBP Efforts to
Mitigate Risk of Employee Corruption and Misconduct, GAO-13-59, December 2012, p. 9.
91
See testimony by Kevin L. Perkins, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigative Division, Federal Bureau of
Investigation before the U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Ad Hoc
Subcommittee on State, Local, and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration, New Border War: Corruption of U.S.
Officials by Drug Cartels, 111th Cong., 1st sess., March 11, 2010.
92
See testimony by James F. Tomsheck, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Internal Affairs, Customs and Border
Protection before the U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Ad Hoc
Subcommittee on State, Local, and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration, New Border War: Corruption of U.S.
Officials by Drug Cartels, 111th Cong., 1st sess., March 11, 2010.
93
Ibid.

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compromising corruption.94 Congress may decide to increase fundingas part of or separately


from Mrida fundingfor the vetting of new and current border enforcement personnel.

Mexicos Southern Borders


Policy makers may also seek to examine a relatively new element under pillar three of the Mrida
Initiative that involves U.S. support for securing Mexicos porous and insecure southern borders
with Guatemala and Belize. The Mexican government has designed a southern border security
plan that involves three security cordons that stretch more than 100 miles north of the MexicoGuatemala and Mexico-Belize borders.95 The State Department has provided $6.6 million of
mobile Non-Intrusive Inspection Equipment (NIIE) and approximately $3.5 million in mobile
kiosks, operated by Mexicos National Migration Institute, that capture the biometric and
biographic data of individuals living and transiting southern Mexico. The U.S. Department of
Defense (DOD) has also provided training to troops patrolling the border, communications
equipment, and support for the development of Mexicos air mobility and surveillance
capabilities (see Role of the U.S. Department Of Defense in Mexico).

Pillar Four: Building Strong and Resilient Communities


This pillar is a new focus for U.S.-Mexican cooperation, the overall goals of which are to address
the underlying causes of crime and violence, promote security and social development, and build
communities that can withstand the pressures of crime and violence. Pillar four is unique in that it
has involved Mexican and U.S. federal officials working together to design and implement
community-based programs in high-crime areas in municipalities near the U.S.-Mexico border.
Pillar four seeks to empower local leaders, civil society representatives, and private sector actors
to lead crime prevention efforts in their communities.
In January 2010, in response to a violent massacre of 15 youth with no apparent connection to
organized crime in Ciudad Jurez, Chihuahua, the Mexican government began to prioritize crime
prevention and community engagement. Responding to criticisms of its military-led strategy for
the city, federal officials worked with local authorities and civic leaders to establish six task
forces to plan and oversee a strategy for reducing criminality, tackling social problems, and
improving citizen-government relations. The strategy, aptly titled Todos Somos Juarez (We
Are All Jurez), was launched in February 2010 and involved close to $400 million in federal
investments in the city.96 While federal officials began by amplifying access to existing social
programs and building infrastructure projects throughout the city, they later sought to respond to
local demands to concentrate efforts in certain safe zones. At the same time, control over public
security efforts in the city shifted from the Mexican military to the Federal Police, and finally to
municipal authorities.97
94
U.S. Government Accountability Office, Border Security: Additional Actions Needed to Strengthen CBP Efforts to
Mitigate Risk of Employee Corruption and Misconduct, GAO-13-59, December 2012, p. 10.
95
Obama Administration Considers Plan to Bolster Mexicos Southern Border, Washington Free Beacon, August 22,
2013.

96

Adam Thompson, Troubled Jurez starts to breathe again, Financial Times, October 11, 2012.

97

Each of these forces has committed human rights violations and exhibited corruption. Despite concerns about his
aggressive tactics, the current municipal police chief in Ciudad Jurez has won praise by some for reducing crime rates.
William Booth, In Mexicos Murder City, the War Appears Over, Washington Post, August 20, 2012; Damien Cave,
(continued...)

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Prior to the endorsement of a formal pillar four strategy, the U.S. governments pillar four efforts
in Ciudad Jurez involved the expansion of existing initiatives, such as school-based culture of
lawfulness98 programs and drug demand reduction and treatment services.99 Culture of
Lawfulness (CoL) programs aim to combine top-down and bottom-up approaches to educate
all sectors of society on the importance of upholding the rule of law. U.S. support also included
new programs, such as support for an anonymous tip line for the police. USAID supported a
crime and violence mapping project100 that enabled Ciudad Juarezs municipal government to
identify hot spots and respond with tailored prevention measures as well as a program to provide
safe spaces, activities, and job training programs for youth at-risk of recruitment to organized
crime. USAID also provided $1 million in grants to local organizations working in the areas of
social cohesion in Ciudad Juarez, with activities focused specifically on education, mental health,
and at-risk youth, among others.
It may never be determined what role the aforementioned efforts played in the significant
reductions in violence that has occurred in Ciudad Juarz since 2011.101 Nevertheless, lessons can
be gleaned from this example of Mexican and U.S. involvement in municipal crime prevention.
Analysts have praised the sustained, high-level support Ciudad Jurez received from the Mexican
and U.S. governments; community ownership of the effort; and coordination that occurred
between various levels of the Mexican government. The work of the security task force (Mesa de
Seguridad) proved crucial for developing trust between citizens and authorities, communication
among authorities, and citizen oversight of government efforts.102 The strategy was not welltargeted, however, and monitoring and evaluation of its effectiveness has been relatively weak.103
In April 2011, the U.S. and Mexican governments formally approved a bi-national pillar four
strategy.104 The strategy focuses on three objectives: (1) strengthening federal civic planning
capacity to prevent and reduce crime; (2) bolstering the capacity of state and local governments to
implement crime prevention and reduction activities; and (3) increasing engagement with at-risk

(...continued)
A Crime Fighter Draws Plaudits, and Scrutiny, New York Times; December 23, 2011.
98

Key sectors that CoL programs seek to involve include law enforcement, security forces, and other public officials;
the media; schools; and religious and cultural institutions. The U.S. government is supporting school-based culture of
lawfulness programs, as well as culture of lawfulness courses that are being taught to federal and state police.

99

U.S.-funded demand reduction programs are helping to create a network to connect Mexicos 334 prevention and
treatment centers, to develop curricula for drug counselors at the centers, and to help certify Mexican drug counselors.

100

The project has gathered available data on where violence is occurring in the city. See
http://www.observatoriodejuarez.org/.
101
While many analysts credit the decline in violence to the end of a turf war between the Sinaloa and Jurez DTOs,
federal and local officials have variously taken credit for the reduction. See, for example, Looking Back on the
Caldern Years, The Economist, November 22, 2012.
102
Lucy Conger, The Private Sector and Public Security: The Cases of Ciudad Juarez and Monterrey, Building
Resilient Communities: Civic Responses to Violent Organized Crime in Mexico (Woodrow Wilson Centers Mexico
Institute and the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego, 2014).
103
Diana Negroponte, Pillar IV of Beyond Merida: Addressing the Socio-Economic Causes of Drug Related Crime
and Violence in Mexico, Woodrow Wilson Centers Mexico Institute, May 2011, available at
http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/Merida%20-%20Pillar%20IV%20Working%20Paper%20Format1.pdf
104

The State Department reprogrammed $8.5 million in FY2010 funding and $14 million in FY2011 funding to
support pillar four projects. To date (FYs 2010, 2010 supplemental, 2011, 2012 and 2013), USAID has dedicated $35.9
million in Economic Support Fund monies to pillar four.

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youth.105 U.S.-funded pillar four activities were designed to complement the work of the Mexicos
National Center for Crime Prevention and Citizen Participation, an entity within the Interior
Department that implemented projects in high crime areas in 237 cities in 2012 where local
authorities were making similar investments in crime prevention.
In support of this new strategy, USAID launched a three-year, $15 million Crime and Violence
Prevention program in nine target communities identified by the Mexican government in Ciudad
Jurez, Monterrey, Nuevo Len, and Tijuana, Baja California. The program supports the
development of community strategies to reduce crime and violence in the target localities,
including outreach to at-risk youth, improved citizen-police collaboration, and partnerships with
private sector enterprises. USAID also awarded $10 million in local grants to six civil society
organizations for innovative crime prevention projects that engage at-risk youth and their
families. USAID also supports a $1 million evaluation of crime in the target communities that
will help the U.S. and Mexican governments understand the risk factors contributing directly to
increased violence and enable both governments to identify successful models for replication.
Experiences in U.S. and Latin American cities have shown the importance that municipal-based
crime prevention programs play in efforts to reduce violence. USAID has supported local
prevention programs in Central America since the mid-2000s, and lessons learned can be drawn
from that experience. Some may argue that similar programs in Mexico should be scaled up,
while others may assert that Mexico, a middle-income country, has the capacity to pay for its own
prevention programs. As a result, the U.S. governments pillar four programs were designed as
pilots for future replication in other areas of Mexico with similar characteristics and
vulnerabilities. Mexican participation and ultimate ownership and responsibility of these
programs, as well as local civil society participation and oversight, will be crucial to sustaining
these investments.
Pillar four appears to be a top priority for the Pea Nieto government and future bilateral efforts
will likely seek to complement Mexicos National Crime and Violence Prevention Program. As
previously stated, that program involves federal interventions in municipalities in 57 high crime
areas. To bolster those interventions, USAID may expand the geographic areas in which it is
supporting violence prevention programs. In addition, the State Department is supporting another
key element of the program: drug demand reduction (DDR). For example, the DDR program
which has already worked with the Organization of American States to develop a curriculum on
drug treatment that has been given to 600 counselors in six states and supported research and
clinical trials, is in the process of helping Mexico expand drug treatment courts throughout the
country. As Mexico has made culture of lawfulness (CoL) education a required part of middle
school curriculum, U.S. support has helped that curriculum reach more than 800,000 students
during the 2013-2014 school year.106

105

U.S. programs under the first objective may help refine the Mexican governments national crime prevention plan
and support federal entities engaged in developing, monitoring, and evaluating municipal crime prevention efforts.
Under the second objective, USAID may support the development and implementation of municipal crime prevention
plans. Programs under the third objective may include helping communities build networks of resources for at-risk
youth. See USAID-Mexico, Pillar Four: Building Strong and Resilient Communities, http://www.usaid.gov/mx/
pillariveng.html.
106
U.S. Embassy, February 2014.

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Issues
Measuring the Success of the Mrida Initiative
With little publicly available information on what specific metrics the U.S. and Mexican
governments are using to measure the impact of the Mrida Initiative, analysts have debated how
bilateral efforts should be evaluated.107 How one evaluates the Mrida Initiative largely depends
on how one has defined the goals of the program. While the U.S. and Mexican governments
long-term goals for the Mrida Initiative may be similar, their short-term goals and priorities may
be different. For example, both countries may strive to ultimately reduce the overarching threat
posed by the DTOsa national security threat to Mexico and an organized crime threat to the
United States. However, their short-term goals may differ; Mexico may focus more on reducing
drug trafficking-related crime and violence, while the United States may place more emphasis on
aggressively capturing DTO leaders and seizing illicit drugs.
One basic measure by which Congress has evaluated the Mrida Initiative has been the pace of
equipment deliveries and training opportunities. A December 2009 Government Accountability
Office (GAO) report identified several factors that had slowed the pace of Mrida
implementation.108 It is unclear, though, whether more expeditious equipment deliveries to
Mexico have resulted in a more positive evaluation of Mrida. Moreover, if equipment is not
adequately maintained, its long-term impact could be reduced. Measures of the volume of
training programs administered, including the number of individuals completing each course,
have also been used to measure Mrida success. This measure is imperfect, however, as it does
not capture the impact that a particular training course had on an individuals performance. U.S.
agencies are generally not currently measuring retention rates for those whom they have trained;
some agencies have identified high turnover rates within the agencies as a major obstacle for the
sustainability of Mrida-funded training programs.109
U.S.-funded antidrug programs in source and transit countries (of which Mexico is both) have
also traditionally been evaluated by examining the number of DTO leaders arrested and the
amount of drugs and other illicit items seized, along with the price and purity of drugs in the
United States. Some analysts have attributed increased arrests and certain drug seizures (i.e.,
cocaine and methamphetamine) to success of the Mrida Initiative. Others have also highlighted
the downward trend (since 2006) of cocaine availability and purity in the United States as
evidence of the success of Mrida and other U.S.-funded antidrug efforts.
However, a principal challenge in assessing the success of Mrida is separating the results of
those efforts funded via Mrida from those efforts funded through other border security and
bilateral cooperation initiatives. The data available do not allow U.S. officials or analysts to
determine the success that can be directly attributed to Mrida. Changes in seizure data and drug
107
See, for example, Andrew Selee, Success or Failure? Evaluating U.S.-Mexico Efforts to Address Organized Crime
and Violence, Center for Hemispheric Policy - Perspectives on the Americas Series, December 20, 2010.
108
Government Accountability Office, Status of Funds for the Mrida Initiative, 10-253R, December 3, 2009.
109
U.S. Agency for International Development, Justice Studies Center of the Americas, and Coordination Council for
the Implementation of the Criminal Justice System and its Technical Secretariat (SETEC); Executive Summary of the
General Report: Monitoring the Implementation of the Criminal Justice Reform in Chihuahua, the State of Mexico,
Morelos, Oaxaca, and Zacatecas: 2007-2011, November 2012.

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prices may not be directly related to U.S.-Mexican efforts to combat the DTOs. It is equally
difficult to parcel out the reasons for periodic fluctuations in drug purity in the United States.
President Enrique Pea Nieto has vowed to reduce drug trafficking-related violence and crimes
such as kidnapping and extortion. Should a decrease in drug trafficking-related deaths be used as
an indicator of success for the Mrida Initiative? What if drug trafficking-related deaths continue
to decline, but extortions and kidnappings continue to increase?
In addition to a decline in drug trafficking-related violence and crime, analysts have suggested
that success in pillars two and four would be evidenced by, among other things, increases in
popular trust in the police and courts. Measuring citizens perceptions on crime and violence, on
the one hand, as well as governmental effectiveness, on the other, could also prove useful.
Still others, including U.S. officials, have maintained that the success of the Mrida Initiative may
be measured by a broad range of indicators that show increased bilateral cooperation. For
instance, the State Department has cited the arrests and killings of high-profile DTO leaders that
have been made since late 2009 as examples of the results of increased bilateral law enforcement
cooperation.

Extraditions110
Another example of Mrida successin the form of bilateral cooperationcited by the State
Department is the high number of extraditions from Mexico to the United States. Extraditions to
the United States had started to increase under former President Vicente Fox (2000-2006), who
like Felipe Caldern was from the opposition PAN, and reached 63 in 2006. Starting at 83 in
2007, in the six full years of the Caldern Administration, extraditions rose to nearly 100 a year
Cooperation on extraditions peaked in 2012, the final year of the Caldern government, with 115
favorable responses to U.S. extradition requests, including 52 extraditions on drug-related
offenses.

110

June S. Beittel, Analyst in Latin American Affairs, contributed to this section.

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U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Mrida Initiative and Beyond

Figure 2. Individuals Extradited from Mexico to the United States


1995-2013

Sources: 1995-2006 data from U.S. Embassy to Mexico, U.S. - Mexico at a Glance: Law Enforcement at a
Glance, http://www.usembassy-mexico.gov/eng/eataglance_law.html; 2007-2008 data from the Trans-Border
Institute, Justice in Mexico, News Report January 2009, January 2009; 2009 data from the U.S. Department of
State, United States - Mexico Security Partnership: Progress and Impact, press release, May 19, 2010. 2010 and
2011 data from the U.S. Department of Justice. 2012-2013 data from the U.S. Department of State, International
Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Vol. 1, March 2014.

In the first full year of President Enrique Pea Nietos term in office (2013), however, the number
of extraditions declined to 54. Given the transition to a new administration in Mexico, there are
several possible reasons for that decline in extraditions. According to Mexican officials,
extradition requests from the United States to Mexico declined from 108 in 2012 to 88 in 2013.
Moreover, the Caldern government did not leave a large backlog of cases waiting to be
processed in 2013.111 In addition, the Mexican government may be attempting to show that the
Mexican justice system, which is in the process of being reformed, is capable of arresting, trying,
and convicting drug traffickers, including El Chapo Guzmn.112 At a recent hearing, several
Members of Congress vigorously urged State Department and DHS officials to seek Guzmns
extradition; those officials responded by stating that they are engaged in discussions with the
Mexican government on that matter.113

Drug Production and Interdiction in Mexico


Drug eradication and alternative development programs have not been a focus of the Mrida
Initiative even though Mexico is a major producer of cannabis (marijuana), opium poppy (used to
produce heroin), and methamphetamine. According to U.S. government estimates, marijuana and
111

CRS interview with Mexican official, March 13, 2014.


Mark Stevenson, Alicia A. Caldwell, and Adriana Gomez Licon, Drug Lord El Chapo Guzman Charged in
Mexico, Associated Press, February 24, 2014.
113
U.S. Congress, House Committee on Homeland Security, Taking Down the Cartels: Examining United StatesMexican Cooperation, 113th Cong., 2nd sess., April 2, 2014.
112

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opium poppy cultivation in rural Mexico expanded significantly in 2009-2010, before declining
in 2011 due to drought conditions in crop-growing regions and slight increases in eradication.
Eradication figures increased again slightly in 2012. No cultivation or eradication figures for
Mexico appeared in the State Departments International Narcotics Control Strategy Report
covering 2013, however press reports maintain that opium production has surged as cannabis
production has fallen.114 In addition, despite Mexican government import restrictions on precursor
chemicals and efforts to seize precursor chemicals and dismantle clandestine labs, the production
of methamphetamine appears to have continued at high levels.
The Mexican government has engaged its military in drug crop eradication efforts since the
1930s, but personnel constraints have inhibited recent eradication efforts. Indeed, increases in
drug production have occurred as the government assigned more military forces to public security
functions, including anti-DTO operations, than to drug crop eradication efforts. Should Mexicans
become increasingly wary of the governments strategy of using the military to perform police
functions, there may be calls for the troops to return to more traditional antidrug functions.
Similarly, if drug production in Mexico further expands, particularly production of the potent and
dangerous black tar variety of heroin, U.S. policy makers may decide to direct some Mrida
assistance to support eradication efforts in Mexico.
The Mexican government has not traditionally provided support for alternative development even
though many drug-producing regions of the country are impoverished rural areas where few licit
employment opportunities exist. Alternative development programs have traditionally sought to
provide positive incentives for farmers to abandon drug crop cultivation in lieu of farming other
crops, but may be designed more broadly to assist any individuals who collaborate with DTOs out
of economic necessity. In Colombia, studies have found that the combination of jointly
implemented eradication, alternative development, and interdiction is more effective than the
independent application of any one of these three strategies.115 Despite those findings, alternative
development often takes years to show results and requires a long-term commitment to promoting
rural development, two factors which may lessen its appeal as a policy tool for Mexico.
While Mexico has made arresting drug kingpins a top priority, it has not given equal attention to
the need to increase drug seizures. The State Departments International Narcotics Control
Strategy Reports covering 2012 and 2013 assert that less than two percent of the cocaine
estimated to transit Mexico is seized by Mexican authorities. Cocaine seizures in Nicaragua and
other Central American countries often exceed Mexicos cocaine interdiction figures. Although
the State Department has provided canines and NIIE equipment for interdiction at Mexicos
borders and ports of entry, it does not appear to be a top priority of the Mrida Initiative.

114
Nick Miroff, Tracing the U.S. Heroin Surge Back South of the Border as Mexican Cannabis Output Falls,
Washington Post, April 6, 2014.
115
Vanda Felbab-Brown, Joel M. Jutkowitz, Sergio Rivas, et al. Assessment of the Implementation of the United States
Governments Support for Plan Colombias Illicit Crop Reduction Components, report produced for review by the U.S.
Agency for International Development (USAID), April 17, 2009.

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Human Rights Concerns and Conditions on Mrida


Initiative Funding
There have been ongoing concerns about the human rights records of Mexicos military and
police. The State Departments annual human rights reports covering Mexico have cited credible
reports of police involvement in extrajudicial killings, kidnappings for ransom, and torture.116
There has also been concern that the Mexican military has committed more human rights abuses
since being tasked with carrying out public security functions. According to Mexicos Human
Rights Commission (Commisin Nacional de Derechos Humanos or CNDH), complaints of
human rights abuses by Mexicos Department of Defense (SEDENA) increased from 182 in 2006
to a peak of 1,800 in 2009 before falling since that time. Complaints of abuses against the
Secretariat of the Navy (SEMAR) increased by 150% from 2010 to 2011 as its forces became
more heavily involved in anti-DTO efforts, before decreasing in 2012 and 2013.117 While
troubling, only a small percentage of those allegations have resulted in the CNDH issuing
recommendations for corrective action to SEDENA and SEMAR, which those agencies have
largely accepted.118
In addition to expressing concerns about current abuses, Mexican and international human rights
groups have criticized the Mexican government for failing to hold military and police officials
accountable for past abuses. They fault the government for not taking further steps to comply
with rulings by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) and decisions by Mexicos
Supreme Court affirming that cases of military abuses against civilians should be tried in civilian
courts. Since 2011, the military asserts that it has transferred dozens of cases to civilian
jurisdiction, but information on those cases is not publicly available.119
Congress has expressed ongoing concerns about human rights conditions in Mexico. These
concerns have intensified as U.S. security assistance to Mexico has increased under the Mrida
Initiative. Congress has continued monitoring adherence to the Leahy vetting requirements that
must be met under the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of 1961 as amended (22 U.S.C. 2378d)120
and annual Department of Defense (DOD) appropriations121 in order for Mexican security
forces122 to receive U.S. support.123

116

U.S. Department of State, Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2012: Mexico, April 2013.Country
Report: Mexico, February 2014.
117
These figures are from CNDHs annual activity reports. They are available in Spanish at http://www.cndh.org.mx/
Informes_Actividades
118
In 2013, for example, the 811 complaints filed with CNDH against SEDENA resulted in 3 recommendations.
119
For background, see Maureen Meyer, Recent Developments on the Use of Military Jurisdiction in Mexico, WOLA,
January 31, 2012; Country Report: Mexico, February 2014.
120
The codified Leahy law (22 U.S.C. 2378d) prohibits the furnishing of assistance authorized by the FAA and the
Arms Export Control Act, as amended, (AECA) to any foreign security force unit that is credibly believed to have
committed a gross violation of human rights.
121
A provision in the annual DOD appropriations legislation prohibits the use of DOD funds to support any training
program involving a unit of a foreign security or police force if the unit has committed a gross violation of human
rights. P.L. 113-76 expands that prohibition to cover DOD equipment assistance programs as well.
122
There is no FAA definition for the term security force. DOD defines the term as duly constituted military,
paramilitary, police, and constabulary forces of a state.(DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, DOD
Joint Publication 1-02, http://www.dtic.mil.)
123
CRS Report R43361, Leahy Law Human Rights Provisions and Security Assistance: Issue Overview, coordinated
(continued...)

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Since FY2008, Congress has also conditioned U.S. assistance to the Mexican military and police
on compliance with certain human rights standards. The FY2008 Supplemental Appropriations
Act (P.L. 110-252), which provided the first tranche of Mrida funding, had less stringent human
rights conditions than had been proposed earlier, largely due to Mexicos concerns that some of
the conditions would violate its national sovereignty. The conditions required that 15% of INCLE
and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) assistance be withheld until the Secretary of State reports
in writing that Mexico is taking action in four human rights areas. Those were: 1) improving
transparency and accountability of federal police forces; 2) establishing a mechanism for regular
consultations among relevant Mexican government authorities, Mexican human rights
organizations, and other relevant Mexican civil society organizations; 3) ensuring that civilian
prosecutors and judicial authorities are investigating and prosecuting, in accordance with
Mexican and international law, members of the federal police and military forces who have been
credibly alleged to have committed violations of human rights, and the federal police and military
forces are fully cooperating with the investigations; and 4) enforcing the prohibition on the use of
testimony obtained through torture or other ill-treatment.
Similar human rights conditions were included in FY2009-FY2011 appropriations measures that
funded the Mrida Initiative.124 However, the first two conditions were not included in the 15%
withholding requirement in the FY2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 112-74). The
FY2013 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act (P.L. 113-6) contained the same
withholding requirement as P.L. 112-74.
Thus far, the State Department has submitted three 15% progress reports on Mexico to
congressional appropriators (in August 2009, September 2010, and August 2012) that have met
the statutory requirements for FY2008-FY2013 Mrida funds that had been on hold to be
released. Nevertheless, the State Department has twice elected to hold back some funding
pending further progress in key areas of concern. In the September 2010 report, for example, the
State Department elected to hold back $26 million in FY2010 supplemental funds as a matter of
policy until further progress was made in the areas of transparency and combating impunity.
Those funds were not obligated until the fall of 2011.
In the August 2012 report, the State Department again decided to hold back all of the FY2012
funding that would have been subject to the conditions (roughly $18 million) as a matter of policy
until it can work with Mexican authorities to determine steps to address key human rights
challenges. Those include improving the ability of Mexicos civilian institutions to investigate
(...continued)
by Nina M. Serafino
124
In P.L. 110-252, the human rights conditions applied to 15% of the funding for INCLE and FMF, or approximately
$57 million dollars. In the FY2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-8), the 15% conditions applied all of the
funding accounts but excluded amounts for judicial reform, institution building, anti-corruption and rule of law
activities, which were earmarked at not less than $75 million. The total aid withheld was $33.4 million. In the FY2009
Supplemental (P.L. 111-32), the conditions effectively only applied to the $160 million in the INCLE account, or
roughly $24 million, because the $260 million in FMF funds was excluded from the 15% withholding requirement. In
the FY2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-117), the 15% withholding applied to all of the accounts but
excluded assistance for judicial reform, institution building, anti-corruption and rule of law activities. The total aid
withheld was some $12 million. In the FY2010 Supplemental Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-212), the conditions
applied to 15% of the INCLE appropriated or roughly $26 million. The same conditions that were included in P.L. 111117 applied to assistance provided in the FY2011 Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act
(P.L. 112-10). According to the State Department, the FY2011 funds on hold totaled approximately $3.5 million. Email
from State Department official, January 24, 2012.

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and prosecute cases of human rights abuses; enhancing enforcement of prohibitions against
torture and other mistreatment; and strengthening protection for human rights defenders.125
Human rights groups initially expressed satisfaction that President Pea Nieto had adopted a prohuman rights discourse and promulgated a law requiring state support for crime victims and their
families. They have since been underwhelmed with his governments efforts to promote and
protect human rights.126 Some have therefore urged U.S. policymakers to closely monitor the
Pea Nieto governments compliance with conditions on Mrida assistance and to continue
rigorous vetting of Mexican individuals and units slated to receive U.S. training and
equipment.127 How the Pea Nieto government moves to improve the ability of Mexicos civilian
institutions to investigate and prosecute cases of human rights abuses by security forces, enhance
enforcement of prohibitions against torture and other mistreatment, and strengthen protection for
human rights defenders, the media, migrants, and other vulnerable groups is likely to be closely
scrutinized.
The State Department has established a high-level human rights dialogue with Mexico, provided
human rights training for Mexican security forces, and implemented a number of human rightsrelated programs. In 2011, USAID launched a $5 million program being implemented by
Freedom House to improve protections for Mexican journalists and human rights defenders.
Human rights groups have acknowledged these efforts, but have criticized the U.S. government
for failing to enforce Mridas human rights restrictions and for backing Mexicos military-led
security strategy.
Congress may choose to augment Mrida Initiative funding for human rights programs, such as
ongoing training programs for military and police, or newer efforts, such as support for human
rights organizations. Human rights conditions in Mexico, as well as compliance with conditions
on Mrida assistance, are also likely to continue to be important oversight issues. The FY2014
Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 113-76) includes several human rights provisions
regarding aid to Mexico. Those provisions withhold 15% of assistance to the Mexican military
and police until the State Department reports that progress has been made in meeting four human
rights conditions.128 They also appear to require a report from the State Department within 60
days of the measures enactment (January 17, 2014) on progress made in meeting the human
rights conditions in the FY2012 and FY2013 appropriations laws (P.L. 112-74 and P.L. 113-6).129

125

U.S. Department of State, Mexico - Merida Initiative Report (15 PercentReport), August 30, 2012.
Jos Miguel Vivanco, Mexico: Presidents Disappointing First Year on Human Rights, Human Rights Watch,
November 26, 2013.
127
Restrictions on certain aid to Mexicos military and police have been included in each of the Mrida appropriations
measures since P.L. 110-252. See CRS Report R41349, U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Mrida Initiative and
Beyond.
128
Those conditions require the Secretary of State to report that the Mexican government (1) has reformed its military
justice system to require that military abuses against civilians are investigated and prosecuted in the civilian justice
system; (2) is enforcing prohibitions against torture and the use of testimony obtained through torture; (3) is ensuring
that military and police are immediately transferring detainees to the custody of civilian judicial authorities and are
cooperating with such authorities in such cases; and, (4) is searching for the victims of enforced and involuntary
disappearances and prosecuting those responsible for such crimes. They are outlined in S.Rept. 113-81 accompanying
the Senate version of the FY2014 State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill (S. 1372).
129
The reporting requirement originally appeared in H.Rept. 113-185 accompanying the House Appropriations
Committees version of the FY2014 State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill, H.R. 2855.
126

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Role of the U.S. Department Of Defense in Mexico


In contrast to Plan Colombia, the Mrida Initiative does not include an active U.S. military
presence in Mexico, largely due to Mexican concerns about national sovereignty stemming from
past conflicts with the United States. The Department of Defense (DOD) did not play a primary
role in designing the Mrida Initiative and is not providing assistance through Mrida aid
accounts. However, DOD administered assistance provided through the Foreign Military
Financing (FMF) account, which was part of Mrida until FY2012. As an implementing agency,
DODs role largely involved overseeing the procurement and delivery of Mrida equipment
(including 15 aircraft and 13 ion scanners) for Mexican security forces.
Despite DODs limited role in the Mrida Initiative, military cooperation between the two
countries has been increasing, as have DOD training and equipment programs to support the
Mexican military.130 For example, according to press reports, in response to a request from the
Mexican government, DOD began sending unmanned aerial vehicles into Mexico to gather
intelligence on criminal organizations.131 As previously mentioned (Mexicos Southern
Borders), DOD is providing training and equipment to Mexican military forces patrolling the
countrys southern borders. More broadly, DOD assistance aims to support efforts to improve
security in high-crime areas, track and capture DTO operatives, strengthen border security, and
disrupt flows of illicit finances, drugs, and other materials.
There are a variety of funding streams that support DOD training and equipment programs. Some
DOD training programs are funded by annual State Department appropriations for FMF, which
totaled $8 million in FY2011 and $7 million in FY2012 and FY2013, and International Military
Education and Training (IMET), which has exceeded $1 million per year for the past several
years (see Appendix A). Apart from the Mrida Initiative and other State Department funding,
DOD has its own legislative authorities to provide certain counterdrug assistance. DOD programs
in Mexico are overseen by the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), which is located at
Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. DOD can provide counterdrug assistance under guidelines
outlined in Section 1004 of P.L. 101-510, as amended, and can provide additional assistance to
certain countries as provided for in Section 1033 of P.L. 105-85, as amended. DOD 1004 and
1003 support to Mexico totaled roughly $61.5 million in FY2011, $84.4 million in FY2012, and
$68.8 million in FY2013.132
The aforementioned counternarcotics funding has enabled NORTHCOM to train and equip an
increasing number of Mexican military personnel. In FY2013, for example, NORTHCOM trained
more than 3,000 military personnel, a 44% increase over FY2011. Training included courses on
information fusion, surveillance, interdiction, cyber security, logistics, and professional
development. 133 Equipping efforts provided non-lethal equipment (such as communications
tools, aircraft modifications, night vision, boats, etc.) to support those training courses.
130
Roderic Ai Camp, Armed Forces and Drugs: Public Perceptions and Institutional Challenges, Woodrow Wilson
Center, Working Paper Series on U.S.-Mexico Security Collaboration, May 2010; Richard D. Downie, Critical
Decisions in Mexico: the Future of U.S./Mexican Defense Relations, Strategic Issues in U.S.-Latin American
Relations, vol. 1, no. 1 (July 2011).
131
Ginger Thompson and Mark Mazzetti, U.S. Drones Fly Deep in Mexico to Fight Drugs, New York Times, March
16, 2011.
132
Electronic correspondence with Northern Command legislative affairs, April 1, 2014.
133
Electronic correspondence with Northern Command legislative affairs, March 31, 2014.

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Since DOD counterdrug assistance is obligated out of global accounts and the agency is not
required to submit country-specific requests to Congress for its programs, obtaining recent data
on DOD programs and plans for Mexico may be difficult. Regardless, policy makers may want to
receive periodic briefings on those efforts in order to guarantee that current and future DOD
programs are being adequately coordinated with Mrida Initiative efforts. They may also want to
ensure that DOD-funded programs are not inadvertently reinforcing the militarization of public
security in Mexico. Experts have urged the United States not to focus too much on military
assistance and neglect other, more effective forms of aid [such as assistance for] the
development, training, and professionalization of Mexicos law enforcement officers.134

Balancing Assistance to Mexico with Support for Southwest


Border Initiatives
The Mrida Initiative was designed to complement domestic efforts to combat drug demand, drug
trafficking, weapons smuggling, and money laundering. These domestic counter-drug initiatives
are funded through regular and supplemental appropriations for a variety of U.S. domestic
agencies. As the strategy underpinning the Mrida Initiative has expanded to include efforts to
build a more modern border (pillar three) and to strengthen border communities (pillar four),
policy makers may consider how best to balance the amount of funding provided to Mexico with
support for related domestic initiatives.135
Regarding support for law enforcement efforts, some would argue that there needs to be more
federal support for states and localities on the U.S. side of the border that are dealing with crime
and violence originating in Mexico. Of those who endorse that point of view, some are
encouraged that the Obama Administration has increased manpower and technology along the
border, whereas others maintain that the Administrations efforts have been insufficient to secure
the border.136 In contrast, some maintain that it is impossible to combat transnational criminal
enterprises by solely focused on the U.S. side of the border, and that domestic programs must be
accompanied by continued efforts to build the capacity of Mexican law enforcement officials.
They maintain that if recent U.S. efforts are perceived as an attempt to militarize the border,
they may damage U.S.-Mexican relations and hinder bilateral security cooperation efforts.
Mexican officials from across the political spectrum have expressed concerns about the
construction of border fencing and the effects of border enforcement on migrant deaths.137
With respect to pillar four of the updated strategy, as previously mentioned, Mexico and the
United States are supporting programs to strengthen communities in Ciudad Jurez, Monterrey,
and Tijuana. In targeting those communities most affected by the violence, greater efforts will
necessarily be placed on community-building in Ciudad Jurez and Tijuana than on their sister
cities in the United States. However, if the U.S. government provides aid to these communities in
134

Robert C. Bonner, The New Cocaine Cowboys: How to Defeat Mexicos Drug Cartels, Foreign Affairs, vol. 89,
no. 4 (July/August 2010).
135
The SWBCS, 2011 includes a new chapter on U.S. efforts to promote strong communities by, in part, increasing
crime prevention efforts and drug prevention and treatment programs in U.S. border communities.
136
For a fuller discussion of U.S. border enforcement efforts, see CRS Report R42138, Border Security: Immigration
Enforcement Between Ports of Entry, by Lisa Seghetti.
137
See, for example, Marc R. Rosenblum, Obstacles and Opportunities for Regional Cooperation: the U.S.-Mexico
Case, Migration Policy Institute, April 2011.

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Mexico, some may argue that there should also be federal support for the adjacent U.S. border
cities. For example, initiatives aimed at providing youth with education, employment, and social
outlets might reduce the allure of joining a DTO or local gang. Some may contend that increasing
these services on the U.S. side of the border as well as the Mexican side could be beneficial.

Integrating Counterdrug Programs in the Western Hemisphere


U.S. State Department-funded counterdrug assistance programs in the Western Hemisphere are
currently in transition. Counterdrug assistance to Colombia and the Andean region is in decline
after record assistance levels that began with U.S. support for Plan Colombia in FY2000 and
peaked in the mid-2000s. Antidrug aid to Mexico increased dramatically in FY2008-FY2010 as a
result of the Mrida Initiative, but is also now gradually being reduced. Conversely, funding for
Central America is increasing as a result of the Central American Regional Security Initiative
(CARSI)138 and support for the Caribbean increased in FY2010 and has remained relatively stable
due to the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI).
The Obama Administration has taken steps to coordinate the aforementioned country and regional
antidrug programs and to ensure that U.S.-funded efforts complement the efforts of partner
governments and other donors. The Administration has appointed a coordinator within the State
Department (the Principal Deputy Assistance Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs)
to oversee the planning and implementation of the aforementioned security assistance packages.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the National Security Council conduct
annual reviews of counterdrug efforts in the Americas. ONDCP and the State Department use a
high-level committee process to oversee programming and planning. The Administration is
encouraging countries that have received U.S. assistance in the pastparticularly Colombiato
share technical expertise with other countries in the region, a strategy that analysts have
recommended. One area in which closer cooperation between the United States, partner
governments, and other donors will likely be necessary is in efforts to better secure the porous
Mexico-Guatemala and Mexico-Belize borders.

Outlook
Mexico has experienced a transition from a PAN Administration focused on combating organized
crime to a PRI government focused on bolstering competitiveness by enacting structural reforms.
As a result, security issues may take a back seat to economic issues on the bilateral agenda for the
first time since September 2001. On May 2, 2013, President Obama traveled to Mexico for a trip
focused on enhancing economic cooperation and expanding educational exchanges between the
two countries.139 When asked about changes in Mexicos security strategy, President Obama said
it is up to the Mexican people to determine their security structures and how [they will engage]
with other nations, including the United States.140 He reiterated his Administrations support for
Mexicos efforts to reduce violence and criminality, including continued U.S. assistance.
138
CRS Report R41731, Central America Regional Security Initiative: Background and Policy Issues for Congress, by
Peter J. Meyer and Clare Ribando Seelke.
139
The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, White House Fact Sheet on U.S.-Mexico Partnership, Press
Release, May 2, 2013.
140
The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, Remarks by President Obama and President Pea Nieto of Mexico
(continued...)

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When examining the future of the Mrida Initiative, Congress may first consider defining the
desired end state of the Mrida Initiative. Congress may then seek to ensure that those who are
implementing the Initiative have developed adequate metrics to measure progress, and that those
metrics are shared with Congress for review and oversight. Given the level of progress that has
been made thus far, the current Mrida strategy may be deemed sufficient or insufficient. If it is
judged insufficient, Congress may consider how it might be improved. When considering future
assistance for the Mrida Initiative, Congress may compare how much funding programs in
Mexico, an upper middle income country, are receiving from the Pea Nieto government, and
whether U.S. funding is complementing or duplicating Mexican efforts.

(...continued)
in a Joint Press Conference, Press Release, May 2, 2013.

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Appendix A. U.S. Assistance to Mexico


Table A-1. U.S. Assistance to Mexico by Account, FY2007-FY2014
(U.S. $ millions)
Account

FY2007

FY2008a

FY2009b

FY2010

FY2011

FY2012

FY2014
(est.)

FY2013

FY2015
(req.)

INCLE

36.7

242.1

454.0c

365.0d

117.0

248.5

195.1

148.1

80.0

ESF

11.4

34.7

15.0

15.0

18.0

33.3

32.1

46.1

35.0

299.0e

5.3

8.0

7.0

6.6

7.0

5.0

FMF

0.0

116.5

IMET

0.1

0.4

0.8

1.0

1.0

1.0

1.2

1.4

1.5

NADR

1.3

1.4

3.9

3.9

5.7

5.4

3.8

3.9

2.9

GHCSf

3.7

2.7

2.9

3.5

3.5

1.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

DA

12.3

8.2

11.2

10.0

25.0

33.4

26.2

0.0

12.5

TOTAL

65.4

405.9

786.8

403.7

178.2

329.6

265.0

206.5

136.9

Sources: U.S. Department of State, Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations FY2008-FY2015.
Notes: GHCS=Global Health and Child Survival; DA=Development Assistance; ESF=Economic Support Fund;
FMF=Foreign Military Financing; IMET=International Military Education and Training; INCLE=International
Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement; NADR=Non-proliferation, Anti-terrorism and Related Programs.
Funds are accounted for in the fiscal year for which they were appropriated as noted below:
a.

FY2008 assistance includes funding from the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008 (P.L.

110-252).

b.

FY2009 assistance includes FY2009 bridge funding from the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008 (P.L.

110-252) and funding from the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2009 (P.L. 111-32).
c.

$94 million provided under P.L. 111-32 and counted here as part of FY2009 funding was considered by
appropriators forward funding intended to address in advance a portion of the FY2010 request.

d.

$175 million provided in the FY2010 supplemental (P.L. 111-212) and counted here as FY2010 funding
was considered by appropriators as forward funding intended to address in advance a portion of the
FY2011 request.

e.

$260 million provided under a FY2009 supplemental (P.L. 111-32) and counted here as FY2009 funding
was considered by appropriators forward funding intended to address in advance a portion of the FY2010
request.

f.

Prior to FY2008, the Global Health and Child Survival account was known as Child Survival and Health.

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Appendix B. U.S. Domestic Efforts to Complement


the Mrida Initiative
Drug Demand
Drug demand in the United States fuels a multi-billion dollar illicit industry. In 2012, about 23.9
million individuals were current (past month) illegal drug users, representing 9.2% of individuals
aged 12 and older.141 Administration officials and experts alike have acknowledged that U.S.
domestic demand for illegal drugs is a significant factor driving the global drug trade, including
the drug trafficking-related crime and violence that is occurring in Mexico and other source and
transit countries.142
In April 2013, the Administration released its 2013 National Drug Control Strategy, which
continues to emphasize the need to reduce U.S. drug demand. The Strategy furthers the goal of
cutting drug use among youth by 15% by 2015.143 Drug policy experts have praised the
Administrations focus on reducing consumption, but criticized the Administration for requesting
relatively modest budget increases in funding for treatment programs.144 Some have questioned
whether the federal government allocates enough of the drug budget to adequately address the
demand side; the most recent drug budget continues to spend a majority of funds on supply
reduction programs including drug crop eradication in source countries, interdiction, and
domestic law enforcement efforts.145 In addition to federal efforts, however, many state, local, and
nonprofit agencies also channel funds toward demand reduction.

Firearms Trafficking146
Illegal firearms trafficking from the United States has been cited as a significant factor in the drug
trafficking-related violence in Mexico. To address this issue, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) stepped up enforcement of domestic gun control laws in the four
Southwest border states under an agency-wide program known as Project Gunrunner. ATF has
141

See the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual survey of approximately 67,500 people, including
residents of households, non-institutionalized group quarters, and civilians living on military bases. The survey is
administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services.
142
See, for example, testimony of R. Gil Kerlikowske, Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy, before the
U.S. Congress, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on National Security and
Foreign Affairs, Transnational Drug Enterprises (Part II): U.S. Government Perspectives on the Threat to Global
Stability and U.S. National Security, 111th Cong., 2nd sess., March 30, 2010.
143
That strategy is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/2013-national-drug-control-strategy . For more
information on the National Drug Control Strategy and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), see CRS
Report R41535, Reauthorizing the Office of National Drug Control Policy: Issues for Consideration, by Lisa N. Sacco
and Kristin Finklea.
144
See, for example, Testimony of John T. Carnevale, President, Carnevale Associates, before the House Oversight and
Government Reform Subcommitee on Domestic Policy, April 14, 2010.
145
Office of National Drug Control Policy, FY2013 Budget and Performance Summary, April 2012.
146
For background, see archived CRS Report R40733, Gun Trafficking and the Southwest Border, by Vivian S. Chu
and William J. Krouse as well as CRS Report R42987, Gun Control Legislation in the 113th Congress, by William J.
Krouse.

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also trained Mexican law enforcement officials to use its electronic tracing (eTrace) program,
through which investigators are sometimes able to trace the commercial trail and origin of
recovered firearms. In the past, ATF has periodically released data on firearms traces performed
for Mexican authorities. Although substantive methodological limitations preclude using trace
data as a proxy for the larger population of crime guns in Mexico or the United States, trace
data have proven to be a useful indicator of trafficking trends and patterns. In June 2009, GAO
recommended to the Attorney General that he should direct ATF to update regularly its reporting
on aggregate firearms trace data and trends.147
In February 2011, ATF came under intense congressional scrutiny for a Phoenix, AZ-based
Project Gunrunner investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious, when ATF whistleblowers
reported that suspected straw purchasers148 had been allowed to acquire relatively large quantities
of firearms as part of long-term gun trafficking investigations.149 Some of these firearms are
alleged to have walked, or been trafficked to gunrunners and other criminals, before ATF
moved to arrest the suspects and seize all of their contraband firearms. Two of those firearms
were reportedly found at the scene of a shootout near the U.S.-Mexico border where U.S. Border
Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot to death.150 Questions have also been raised about whether a
firearm that was reportedly used to murder ICE Special Agent Jamie Zapata and wound Special
Agent Victor Avila in Mexico on February 15, 2011, was initially trafficked by a subject of a
Houston, TX-based Project Gunrunner investigation.151 While it remains an open question
whether ATF or other federal agents were in a position to interdict the firearms used in these
deadly attacks before they were smuggled into Mexico,152 neither DOJ nor ATF informed their
Mexican counterparts about these investigations and the possibility that some of these firearms
could be reaching Mexico.153
Legislators in both the United States and Mexico have voiced ongoing concerns about Operation
Fast and Furious.154 Repeated congressional inquiries prompted U.S. Attorney General Eric
Holder to direct his Inspector General to conduct a third evaluation of Project Gunrunner, which
was delivered to Congress in September 2012.155

147
GAO, Firearms Trafficking: U.S. Efforts to Combat Arms Trafficking to Mexico Face Planning and Coordination
Challenges, GAO-09-709, June 2009, p. 59.
148
A straw purchase occurs when an individual poses as the actual transferee, but he is actually acquiring the firearm
for another person. In effect, he serves as an illegal middleman. Straw purchases can be prosecuted under two
provisions of the Gun Control Act of 1968, as amended (18 U.S.C. 922(a)(6) and 18 U.S.C. 924(a)(1)(A)).
149
James v. Grimaldi and Sari Horwitz, ATF Probe Strategy Is Questioned, Washington Post, February 2, 2011.
150
Ibid.
151
Ibid.
152
Operation Fast and Furious was launched in November 2009. It was approved as an Organized Crime and Drug
Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation in February 2010. As an OCDETF investigation, it was then directed
largely by the U.S. Attorneys Office in Phoenix. While ICE and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents were also part
of this investigation, so far their role in this operation has not generated public or congressional scrutiny.
153
Richard A. Serrano, U.S. Embassy Kept in Dark as Guns Flooded Mexico, Salt Lake Tribune, July 25, 2011.
154
Dennis Wagner, Gun Shop Told ATF Sting Was Perilous, Arizona Republic, April 15, 2011, p. A1.
155
United States Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, Statement of Michael E. Horowitz, Inspector
General, U.S. Department of Justice before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Concerning
Report by the Office of the Inspector General on the Review of ATFs Operation Fast and Furious and Related Matters,
September 20, 2012, http://www.justice.gov/oig/testimony/t1220.pdf.

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Separately, in July 2011, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved an ATF
multiple rifle sales reporting requirement for a three-year period.156 Under this reporting
requirement, federally licensed gun dealers in Southwest border states are required to report to
ATF whenever they make multiple sales or other dispositions of more than one rifle within five
consecutive business days to an unlicensed person.157

Bulk Cash Smuggling/Money Laundering


It is estimated that between $19 billion and $29 billion in illicit proceeds flow from the United
States to drug trafficking organizations and other organized criminal groups in Mexico each
year.158 Much of this money is generated from the illegal sale of drugs in the United States. In
their efforts to transfer illegal earnings from the United States to Mexico, and in the process make
this cash appear legitimate, Mexican criminal networks rely upon a number of money laundering
techniques, including smuggling bulk cash across the Southwest border; exploiting traditional
banking and money services businesses (MSBs); using trade-based money laundering schemes;
abusing prepaid access devices (also referred to as stored value cards); and leveraging mobile and
159
electronic payment systems such as smartphones. The illicit proceeds may then be used by
DTOs and other criminal groups to acquire weapons in the United States and to corrupt law
enforcement and other public officials.
Bulk cash smugglingthe physical movement of cash across the borderhas been a prominent
means by which criminals move illegal profits from the United States into Mexico. A number of
federal law enforcement agencies, including CBP and ICE are involved in U.S. efforts to stem
bulk cash smuggling. In 2005, ICE and CBP launched a program known as Operation Firewall
that increased investigative efforts against bulk cash smuggling in the U.S.-Mexico border region
as well as elsewhere. At the end of May 2012, the operation had yielded more than 6,700
seizures totaling more than $621 million, and arrests of over 1,400 individuals. These efforts
include[d] 480 international seizures totaling more than $271 million and 310 international
arrests.160
156
Office of Management and Budget, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Reviews Completed in the Last
30 Days, DOJ-ATF, Report of Multiple Sale or Other Disposition of Certain Semi-Automatic Rifles, OMB Control
Number: 1140-0100.
157
This reporting requirement is limited to firearms that are (1) semiautomatic, (2) chambered for ammunition of
greater than .22 caliber, and (3) capable of accepting a detachable magazine.
158
DHS, United States-Mexico Bi-National Criminal Proceeds Study, June 2010.
159
Celina B. Realuyo, Its All about the Money: Advancing Anti-Money Laundering Efforts in the U.S. and Mexico to
Combat Transnational Organized Crime, Woodrow Wilson Center Mexico Institute, May 2012, pp. 6-13. See also
Douglas Farah, Money Laundering and Bulk Cash Smuggling: Challenges for the Merida Initiative, Woodrow Wilson
Centers Mexico Institute, Working Paper Series on U.S.-Mexico Security Cooperation, May 2010. Countering
financial crimesincluding money laundering and bulk cash smugglingis one effort outlined by the National
Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy (SWBCS). To curb the southbound flow of money from the sale of illicit
drugs in the United States, the SWBCS includes several goals: stemming the flow of southbound bulk cash smuggling,
prosecuting the illegal use of MSBs and electronic payment devices, increasing targeted financial sanctions, enhancing
multilateral/bi-national collaboration, and empirically assessing the money laundering threat. ONDCP, National
Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy, 2011.
160
Statement for the Record, Leigh H. Winchell, then-Assistant Director for Programs, Homeland Security
Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Homeland Security
and Governmental Affairs, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, U.S. Vulnerabilities to Money Laundering,
Drugs, and Terrorist Financing: HSBC Case History, 112th Cong., 2nd sess., July 17, 2012, S.Hrg. 112597
(Washington: GPO, 2012), p. 14. Hereafter Winchell, Statement for the Record.

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As noted, criminal networks can take advantage of traditional banks and MSBs (such as money
transfer companies) with lax anti-money laundering programs. In December 2012, DOJ
announced that banking giant HSBC had agreed to pay $1.3 billion for failing to maintain an
effective anti-money laundering program and to conduct appropriate due diligence on its foreign
correspondent account holders, among other charges.161 HSBC allowed more than $881 million
tied to the Sinaloa criminal network in Mexico and the Norte del Valle Cartel in Colombia to flow
through the U.S. banking system.
Trade-based money laundering involves criminals disguising the proceeds of crime and moving
value through the use of trade transactions in attempt to legitimise their illicit origins.162 To
facilitate international investigations of trade-based money laundering networks, ICE developed
the Trade Transparency Unit (TTU) model in 2004. ICE notes that [o]ne of the most effectivve
ways to identify instances and patterns of trade-based money laundering is through the exchange
and subsequent analysis of trade data for anomalies that would only be apparent by examining
both sides of a trade transaction.163 ICE has a TTU in Mexico as well as others in Argentina,
Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, and Panama.164
Criminal networks have also turned to stored value cards to move money generated by their illicit
activities. With these cards, criminals are able to avoid the reporting requirement under which
they would have to declare any amount over $10,000 in cash moving across the border. Current
federal regulations regarding international transportation only apply to monetary instruments as
defined under the Bank Secrecy Act.165 Of note, stored value cards are not considered monetary
instruments under current law. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN)166 has
issued a final rule, defining stored value as prepaid access and implementing regulations
regarding the recordkeeping and suspicious activity reporting requirements for prepaid access
products and services.167 This rule does not, however, directly address whether stored value or
prepaid access cards would be subject to current regulations regarding the international
transportation of monetary instruments. A separate proposed rule would amend the definition of
monetary instrument, for the purposes of BSA international monetary transport regulations, to
include prepaid access devices.168 Even if FinCEN were to issue a final rule and implement
161

Department of Justice, HSBC Holdings Plc. and HSBC Bank USA N.A. Admit to Anti-Money Laundering and
Sanctions Violations, Forfeit $1.256 Billion in Deferred Prosecution Agreement, December 11, 2012.
162
Financial Action Task Force, Trade Based Money Laundering, June 23, 2006, p. 1. Techniques that facilitate this
form of money laundering include over- and under- invoicing (and over- and under- shipping) or multiple invoicing of
goods and services as well as falsely describing goods and services.
163
See http://www.ice.gov/trade-transparency/.
164
Ibid.
165
31 U.S.C. 5312 defines a monetary instrument as (A) United States coins and currency; (B) as the Secretary may
prescribe by regulation, coins and currency of a foreign country, travelers checks, bearer negotiable instruments,
bearer investment securities, bearer securities, stock on which title is passed on delivery, and similar material; and
(C) as the Secretary of the Treasury shall provide by regulation for purposes of sections 5316 and 5331 , checks, drafts,
notes, money orders, and other similar instruments which are drawn on or by a foreign financial institution and are not
in bearer form.
166
FinCEN, under the Department of the Treasury, administers the BSA and the nations financial intelligence unit.
FinCEN also supports law enforcement, intelligence, and regulatory agencies by analyzing and sharing financial
intelligence information. For more information, see http://www.fincen.gov/about_fincen/wwd/strategic.html.
167
Department of the Treasury, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Bank Secrecy Act RegulationsDefinitions
and Other Regulations Relating to Prepaid Access, 76, No. 146 Federal Register 45403-45420, July 29, 2011.
168
Department of the Treasury, Bank Secrecy Act Regulations Definition of Monetary Instrument, 76 Federal
Register 64049, October 17, 2011. Entities such as the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control have urged the
(continued...)

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regulations requiring individuals leaving the United States to declare stored value, the GAO has
identified several challenges that would remain.169 These challenges relate to law enforcements
ability to detect the actual cards and to differentiate legitimate from illegitimate stored value on
cards; travelers abilities to remember the amount of stored value on any given card; and law
enforcements ability to determine where illegitimate stored value is physically held and
subsequently freeze and seize the assets.
In addition to prepaid access devices, Mexican criminal networks can launder money via digital
currency accounts, e-businesses that facilitate money transfers via the Internet, and mobile
payment systems wherein traffickers have remote accessoften via cell phonesto hard-to-trace
funds.170 The current extent to which criminals may abuse mobile banking and web-based
transactions is unknown, but experts are considering this as an emerging avenue for cross-border
money movements and laundering.171
U.S. efforts against money laundering and bulk cash smuggling are increasingly moving beyond
the federal level as well, as experts have recommended.172 In December 2009, for example, ICE
opened a bulk cash smuggling center to assist U.S. federal, state, and local law enforcement
agencies track and disrupt illicit funding flows. The United States and Mexico have created a
Bilateral Money Laundering Working Group to coordinate the investigation and prosecution of
money laundering and bulk cash smuggling. A Bi-national Criminal Proceeds Study revealed a
number of major points along the Southwest border where bulk cash is smuggled.173 Information
provided from studies such as these may help inform policy makers and federal law enforcement
personnel and assist in their decisions regarding where to direct future efforts against money
laundering.

(...continued)
Administration to finalize this rule. See, for instance, Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, The Buck Stops
Here: Improving U.S. Anti-Money Laundering Practices, April 2013.
169
GAO, Moving Illegal Proceeds: Challenges Exist in the Federal Governments Effort to Stem Cross Border
Smuggling, October 2010, pp. 4849.
170
Douglas Farah, Money Laundering and Bulk Cash Smuggling: Challenges for the Merida Initiative, Woodrow
Wilson Center Mexico Institute, Working Paper Series on U.S.-Mexico Security Cooperation, May 2010, p. 161.
171
Celina B. Realuyo, Its All about the Money: Advancing Anti-Money Laundering Efforts in the U.S. and Mexico to
Combat Transnational Organized Crime, Woodrow Wilson Center Mexico Institute, May 2012, p. 13.
172
Farah, op. cit.
173
DHS, United States - Mexico Bi-National Criminal Proceeds Study, 2010.

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Appendix C. Selected U.S.Mexican Law


Enforcement Partnerships
Border Enforcement Security Task Forces (BEST)
The BEST Initiative is a multi-agency initiative, led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement
(ICE) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), wherein task forces seek to identify,
disrupt, and dismantle criminal organizations posing significant threats to border securityboth
along the Southwest border with Mexico as well as along the Northern border with Canada.174
Through the BEST Initiative, ICE partners with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP);
the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives (ATF); the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); U.S. Coast Guard; and U.S.
Attorneys Offices; as well as local, state, and international law enforcement agencies. In
particular, the Mexican Secretariat for Public Security (SSP) or federal police has been a partner
along the Southwest border. There are currently 35 BEST teams around the country. BEST is the
umbrella for activities such as the Vetted Arms Trafficking Group and the ICE Border Liaison
Program.

Operation Against Smugglers (and Traffickers) Initiative on Safety


and Security (OASISS)
CBP and the Mexican government have partnered through OASISS, a bi-lateral program aimed at
enhancing both countries abilities to prosecute alien smugglers and human traffickers along the
Southwest border. Through OASISS, which has been in place since 2005, the Mexican
government is able to prosecute alien smugglers apprehended in the United States.175 This
program is supported by the Border Patrol International Liaison Unit, which is responsible for
establishing and maintaining working relationships with foreign counterparts in order to enhance
border security.

Illegal Drug Program (IDP)


The Illegal Drug Program (IDP) is an agreement between ICE and the Mexican Attorney
Generals Office (PGR) wherein ICE can transfer cases of Mexican nationals smuggling drugs
into the United States to the PGR for prosecution.176 The program was initiated in Nogales, AZ, in
October 2009 and subsequently adopted in El Paso, TX. Under the IDP, the U.S. Attorneys
174

Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Enforcement Security Task
Forces.
175
Testimony by Allen Gina, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Intelligence and Operations Coordination, U.S.
Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security before the U.S. Congress, House Committee on
Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Border, Maritime, and Global Counterterrorism, and House Committee on
Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, U.S.-Mexico Security Cooperation: Next Steps for the Merida
Initiative, 111th Cong., 1st sess., May 27, 2010.
176
For more information on the IDP, see U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, Mexican authorities meet
and agree to prosecution plan for drug smugglers captured at the border: DHS, Government of Mexico announce new
agreement to help curb narcotics smuggling, press release, April 15, 2010.

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Offices review the cases and then transfer them to the PGR rather than to local law enforcement
agencies, as was previously done. The PGR has agreed to accept any drug smuggling case
referred by the U.S. Attorneys, regardless of quality, quantity, or type of illegal drug seized.

Project Gunrunner177
Project Gunrunner is an initiative led by ATF in DOJ. Its goal is to disrupt the illegal flow of guns
from the United States to Mexico. In addition to its domestic objectives, Project Gunrunner also
aims to bolster U.S. and Mexican law enforcement coordination along the border in firearms and
violent crime cases as well as to train U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials to identify
firearms traffickers. Project Gunrunner was criticized, in part, for not systematically and
consistently sharing information with Mexican and U.S. partners as well as for focusing
investigations on gun dealers and straw purchasers over high-level traffickers.178 In September,
2010, ATF released a new strategy, Project GunrunnerA Cartel Focused Strategy, that
reportedly sought to addresses those issues.179

Electronic Trace Submission System180


ATF maintains a foreign attach in Mexico City to administer an Electronic Trace Submission
System (ETSS), also known as the eTrace program, for Mexican law enforcement authorities. In
January 2008, ATF announced that e-Trace technology would be deployed to an additional nine
U.S. consulates in Mexico (Mrida, Juarez, Monterrey, Nogales, Hermosillo, Guadalajara,
Tijuana, Matamoros, and Nueva Laredo).181 More recently, ATF has developed and deployed a
Spanish language version of its eTrace program that enables Mexican authorities to submit
firearm trace requests electronically to ATF officials in the United States. From CY2007 through
CY2012, Mexican authorities submitted 118,426 firearms recovered in Mexico to ATF for
tracing.182

Mexican American Liaison and Law Enforcement Training


(MALLET)
The FBI created Mexican American Liaison and Law Enforcement Training (MALLET) seminars
in 1988.183 These week-long seminars, hosted at least four times annually in the United States
177

For more information on Project Gunrunner, see archived CRS Report R41206, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms and Explosives (ATF): Budget and Operations for FY2011, by William J. Krouse.
178
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, Review of ATFs Project Gunrunner, I-2011-001,
November 2010, pp. iii-v, http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/ATF/e1101.pdf.
179
Ibid., p. ix.
180
For more information on the Electronic Trace Submission System, see archived CRS Report R41206, The Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF): Budget and Operations for FY2011, by William J. Krouse.
181
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Office of Public Affairs, ATF Expands Efforts to
Combat Illegal Flow of Firearms to Mexico, January 16, 2008.
182
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Data Source: Firearms Tracing System, Calendar Years
2007 - 2011, March 12, 2012. Data for CY2012 provided to CRS by ATF.
183
For more information, see Federal Bureau of Investigation, On the Border: Training Our Mexican Colleagues, May
11, 2009 http://elpaso.fbi.gov/boader051109.htm.

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throughout the four Southwest border states, train Mexican law enforcement officers on various
topics including law enforcement management and investigative techniques. The Mexican law
enforcement officials participating in these trainings come from all levels of government
federal, state, and municipal. These seminars provide not only training, but opportunities for
building trusted partnerships on both sides of the border. The MALLET seminars are funded
through the FBIs Office of International Operations.184

Policia Internacional Sonora Arizona (PISA)


The Policia Internacional Sonora Arizona (PISA) is a nonprofit organization that was established
in 1978 and has continued to enhance international law enforcement communication and train
officers in laws and procedures across borders.185 With nearly 500 representatives from various
levels of Mexican and U.S. government, PISA promotes training and mutual assistance to
extradite fugitives and solve crimes from auto thefts to homicides. For example, state and local
law enforcement from Arizona have been involved in providing tactical, SWAT, and money
laundering training to Mexican police.

Author Contact Information


Clare Ribando Seelke
Specialist in Latin American Affairs
cseelke@crs.loc.gov, 7-5229

Kristin Finklea
Specialist in Domestic Security
kfinklea@crs.loc.gov, 7-6259

Acknowledgments
June S. Beittel, Analyst in Latin American Affairs, contributed to this report.

184
185

From CRS communication with FBI representative, April 27, 2010.


For more information on PISA, see the website at http://www.azpisa.org/.

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